Russia’s war in Ukraine has been knocking on your door, too

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

Two years on, we know that if Russia succeeds, we will find ourselves in a world that will be dangerous for everyone without exception, Oleksandra Matviichuk writes.

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I don’t know what historians in the future will call this historical period. But we happen to live in rather challenging times. 

The world order, based on the Charter of the UN and international law, is collapsing before our eyes. 

The international peace and security system established after World War II provided unjustified indulgences for certain countries. It did not cope well with global challenges before, but now it is stalling and reproducing ritualistic movements. 

The work of the UN Security Council is paralyzed. We have entered a highly volatile period in history, and now fires will occur more and more frequently in different parts of the world because the world’s wiring is faulty and sparks are everywhere.

A conflict of what makes us human

Samuel Huntington predicted that new global conflicts would arise between different civilizations. 

I live in Kyiv, and my native city, like thousands of other Ukrainian cities, is being shelled not only by Russian missiles but also by Iranian drones. 

China is helping Russia circumvent sanctions and import technologies critical to warfare. North Korea sent Russia more than a million artillery shells. Syria votes at the UN General Assembly in support of Russia. 

We are dealing with the formation of an entire authoritarian bloc. As much as Russia, Iran, China, Syria, and North Korea are “different civilizations”, according to Huntington’s views, they pose a crucial common feature. 

All these regimes that have taken power in their countries have the same idea of what a human being is. That is why this is not a conflict of civilizations. This is a conflict of what makes us human.

Authoritarian leaders consider people as objects of control and deny them rights and freedoms. 

Democracies consider people, their rights and freedoms to be of the highest value. There is no way to negotiate this. 

The existence of the free world always threatens dictatorships with the loss of power. That’s because human beings inherently have a desire for freedom.

Therefore, when we talk about Russia’s war against Ukraine, we are not talking about a war between two states. This is a war between two systems — authoritarianism and democracy. 

If Russia succeeds, we’ll live in a world dangerous for everyone

Russia wants to convince the entire world that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are fake values because they do not protect anyone in times of war. 

Russia wants to convince that a state with a powerful military potential and nuclear weapons can break the world order, dictate its rules to the international community and even forcibly change internationally recognized borders.

If Russia succeeds, it will encourage authoritarian leaders in various parts of the world to do the same. The international system of peace and security does not protect people any more. 

Democratic governments will be forced to invest money not in education, health care, culture or business development, not in solving global problems such as climate change or social inequality, but in weapons. 

We will witness an increase in the number of nuclear states, the emergence of robotic armies and new weapons of mass destruction. 

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If Russia succeeds and this scenario comes true, we will find ourselves in a world that will be dangerous for everyone without exception.

It’s not post-truth, it’s post-knowledge

Public intellectuals say that we live in an era of post-truth. As for me, we live in an era of post-knowledge. 

People with access to Google, who can get the formula for aspirin in a second, forget that this does not make them chemists. People around the world are demanding quick and simple solutions. 

Perhaps in more peaceful times, we could afford it. You can treat a runny nose with squats, and at least it will not harm the body. However, if we are already dealing with cancer, the price of such simple solutions and actual therapy delays will be high.

The problem is not only that the space for freedom in authoritarian countries has narrowed to the size of a prison cell. The problem is that even in developed democracies, forces calling into question the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are gaining strength.

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There are reasons for this. The coming generations replaced those ones that survived World War II. They have inherited democracy from their parents. 

They began to take rights and freedoms for granted. They have become consumers of values. They perceive freedom as choosing between cheeses in the supermarket. 

In essence, they are ready to exchange freedom for economic benefits, promises of security or personal comfort.

Yet, the truth is that freedom is very fragile. Human rights are not attained once and forever. We make our own choices every day.

The war has come home a long time ago

In such times of turbulence, responsibility-driven leadership is required. Global challenges cannot be resolved individually or on your own. 

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The efforts of those who worked to build a shared European project were aimed at overcoming the history of wars. But stable growth and peace in the region are impossible while a part of Europe is bleeding. 

People only begin to understand that the war is going on when the bombs are falling on their heads, but the war has dimensions other than the military one: it is an economic war, an information war, a war of values. 

Whether we are brave enough to admit it or not, this war has long since crossed the borders of the European Union.

Because we live in a very interconnected world. And only the advancement of freedom makes this world safer.

Oleksandra Matviichuk is a Ukrainian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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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).

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The litigation funding industry is abusing the global legal system

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

Malaysia’s experience of the Sulu case allowed us to see up close the violation and damage that resulted from the funding of vexatious claims, Azalina Othman Said writes.

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The Government of Malaysia is engaged in a $14.92 billion (€13.85bn) legal dispute that challenges the sovereignty of the country. 

The matter involves a group of individuals self-proclaiming to be heirs to the defunct Sultanate of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II, who received an arbitration award in February 2022 following their claim that Malaysia is in breach of a colonial-era land treaty involving North Borneo or Sabah, which today is an indisputable part of Malaysia.

Since then, Malaysia has faced an arduous and ongoing battle, incurring significant costs and the deployment of government resources to thwart the claimants’ frivolous claims and protect over 16% of our national budget. 

Malaysia’s position is unwavering — the case represents sophisticated abuse of the arbitration process that has no basis in law, and is nothing more than an attempt to extort a sovereign nation. I call this “The Sulu Fraud”.

Profit ahead of justice

One may question what relevance this case has to third-party litigation funding and the EU’s proposed regulation of the funding industry. 

The reality is that the Sulu case would not exist today without the involvement of a litigation funder, Therium, in bankrolling the claimants and their lawyers. Until today, we do not know how much the funder has spent. We do not know how the funder came to be involved. 

And we do not know how the funder came to an arrangement with a group of individuals who largely reside in the Philippines. However, we do know that they are putting profit ahead of justice.

The litigation funding industry has boomed in recent years across the world. According to some research, Europe’s share of the global litigation funding market is projected to reach nearly 16% of a total of $18bn (€16.7bn) by 2025. 

It has been suggested that the global market could surpass $57.2bn (€53bn) by 2035, as the number of individuals and corporations seeking financial investment in order to pursue legal claims grows exponentially.

I understand that litigation funding plays a pivotal role in providing access to justice. In legal disputes around the world, litigation costs can easily add up due to legal fees, the costs of going to court, and often other unforeseen costs when a party intends to litigate.

However, when an industry becomes worth several billion dollars, one begins to question whether access to justice remains a central tenet or if it is simply a convenient soundbite. 

It is evident that litigation funders are betting significant amounts with the hope of collecting a handsome share of the winnings. 

As funding agreements are commonly made in secret, counterparties involved in a dispute, including a judge, may be unaware of what funding is in place, where the money originates, and any potential conflicts of interest that may subsequently arise, unless in rare circumstances where the funded party voluntarily make the necessary disclosure.

Funding as a tool to wage legal warfare

The opaque nature of the litigation funding sector is a crucial factor in explaining why policymakers around the world should be concerned. 

Funding can serve as a tool through which claims receive funding, where the pursuit of justice is tainted by ulterior motives. 

This is even more true when a sovereign state is involved — whether on the receiving end of vexation claims or ultimately acting as a funder themselves to wage legal warfare.

Malaysia’s experience of the Sulu case allowed us to see up close the violation and damage that resulted from the funding of vexatious claims. 

Therium has turned a blind eye to a series of irregularities that have always been at the core of the Sulu case. 

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These include the sentencing to jail of the arbitrator responsible earlier this year, Mr Gonzalo Stampa, who received over $2.7 million (€2.5m) from Therium for issuing the $14.92bn final award.

Recent decisions from the Paris Court of Appeal and the Hague Court of Appeal revealed that the tide has turned in Malaysia’s favour and the attempts to seize the country’s sovereign assets have also been fought off. 

That being said, it remains to be seen as to whether transparency and ultimately justice will prevail.

It’s time to put a stop to the misuse of third-party funding

As the European Parliament’s proposed regulation of third-party funding demonstrates, we cannot continue with the status quo. I have emphasized this during the series of bilateral meetings in my recent official visit to Brussels. 

I have expressed our interest in understanding in greater detail the European Parliament’s proposed regulation on third-party funding — a regulatory framework that we champion wholeheartedly as a result of the Sulu case. 

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The bilateral meetings, among others, acknowledged the proliferation of abuses in arbitration, especially in light of the regulatory vacuum in the third-party litigation funding industry.

The time is ripe for transnational cooperation to combat the misuse of third-party funding solely for profit-orientated purposes, which subverts the pursuit of justice. 

In this respect, robust safeguards are urgently required to prevent abusive practices, curb excessive profit-seeking at the expense of justice, and introduce comprehensive oversight mechanisms as the sector matures.

I encourage our EU counterparts to move forward with their efforts to regulate the litigation funding industry, as it is only through concerted global actions and coordinated efforts of global leaders that abuses of the global legal system could be prevented. 

Azalina Othman Said serves as Minister of Law and Institutional Reform in the Government of Malaysia.

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Navalny is the latest martyr of Russian totalitarianism

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

The choice which now has to be made is not whether to appease the Kremlin or go into an open conflict with it. The choice now is either to stop Russia in Ukraine or be forced to fight a resurgent Moscow in defence of Eastern Europe as a whole, Aleksandar Đokić writes.

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As much as the news of Alexei Navalny’s sudden death on Friday came as an intense shock, it’s hard to escape the blood-curdling shadow of its inevitability. 

It’s as if all democratically inclined Russians, and those who study the Russian society, knew all along that Navalny would be taken out of the picture by Vladimir Putin at some point, but at the same time hoped that it, by some miracle, not come to pass. 

The death of Navalny is not and cannot be treated as an accident. Since no factual and fair investigation can be conducted in the totalitarian Russia of today, the causes of his death will remain a mystery. 

There is no point in believing that even his remains will survive for long after they are laid to rest as they carry important evidence. 

What is true, however, is that, in August 2020, before his imprisonment, Navalny was poisoned by a neurotoxin which left permanent detrimental consequences on his health; he was kept in solitary confinement for most of his prison term, and he complained about the lack of proper medical care. 

Given the facts, his death was premeditated and orchestrated by the Russian machine of repression, even if he was not directly poisoned for the second time (which can still very well be the real cause of his death after all).

A pattern of propaganda reveals a sinister farce

The handling of Navalny’s sudden death by the Russian state propaganda follows the same pattern as in the case of his poisoning. 

There are always two versions of events that transpired — one, it was an accident, and two, it was the work of the “Anglo-Saxon” security services. 

The accidental death is the official version, the narrative which comes from the Russian penitentiary authorities. In the case of Navalny’s poisoning, the official version was that he had a medical condition and was not poisoned at all, which independent medical analysis in Germany later refuted. 

The unofficial version stems from the Russian state media propagandists and state-operated blogs. 

Their narratives coalesce and by the rule of thumb all claim that Russia had no motive to eliminate Navalny so it must have been the “perfidious Anglo-Saxons” who stand to benefit the most. 

Once one analyzes Russian narratives for years, these patterns become obvious and impossible to miss. They can only instill doubt in those outside of Russia who think about Putin’s totalitarian prison camp only in passing.

Make no mistake: The siloviki are in charge in Moscow

The final elimination of Navalny, when he was already exiled to a maximum security prison in the Arctic Circle, sends a clear message that the Kremlin has stopped pretending that it cares one bit whether it’s seen as a civilised country ruled by law or a thuggish concentration camp with neon-lit commercials. 

The great pretence, which lasted in Russia for almost two decades, was founded upon the balance of two wings of its elite — the hawkish siloviki, agents of the security services and high-ranking military officers, and the capable technocrats, disinterested in empire-building as well as in democracy, and concerned only with the continuous functioning of the political and economic system. 

By engaging in a large-scale war he could not quickly win — or win at all — Putin has transferred all the real power to the military-security wing. 

The people like former FSB director Nikolai Patrushev now effectively govern Russia. They have taken over the political sphere, they have captured even the sphere of culture, where blacklists of undesirable actors, directors or performers have already been made and have left, for the time being, only the area of the economy in the hands of the technocrats. 

The siloviki want the West to know that they mean to go all the way, hence the nuclear threats in space, combined by the elimination of Navalny, all taking place during the Munich Security Conference. 

The thugs who now rule Russia are feeling quite confident; they are emboldened by the polling from the United States, which gives Donald Trump a slight advantage over President Joe Biden, and by the fact that much-needed military aid to Ukraine, currently awaiting the approval of the US House of Representatives, has been postponed on the urging of Trump and his allies in the Republican Party. 

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The siloviki believe that victory is within their grasp. Eliminating Navalny is a clear sign of their confidence.

Between a rock and a hard place, the choice has to be made anyway

In the death of Navalny, however, Russia has gained yet another symbol of democratic martyrdom, as much as it lacks democratic opposition leaders. 

Better yet, it lacks an organised and unified liberal opposition. The million-ruble question is: who is next? Who will step up as the leader of the anti-totalitarian movement in Russia? 

The answer right now might as well be no one — at least in the few years of totalitarianism that are still ahead for Russia. Only the tawing process of transition from totalitarianism and back to authoritarianism can provide enough liberties for the opposition to once again start to form. 

That transition — as undemocratic as it will inevitably be — will most likely come from the top, and in order for that to be induced, Putin and the siloviki, who hold all the power in Russia, must hit a wall in Ukraine. 

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This has to be a wall made not only of Ukrainian bravery and sacrifice, but of Western resolve to contain Moscow’s aggression before it engulfs more of Europe, and, eventually, most of the continent. 

The choice which now has to be made, first and foremost by the White House and Brussels, is not whether to appease the Kremlin or go into an open conflict with it.

The choice is either to stop Russia in Ukraine or be forced to fight a resurgent Moscow in defence of Eastern Europe as a whole.

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

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The Italy-Albania migration deal is cruel and counterproductive

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

Deals with non-EU countries simply exacerbate the dangers and suffering that people in need of international protection face by pushing them into the hands of smugglers or traffickers, and onto ever more perilous routes, Harlem Désir and Susanna Zanfrini write.

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In the Italian city of Trieste, up to 400 people shelter each day in a crumbling, abandoned building next to the train station. 

This is not out of choice. With an average wait of 70 days before asylum seekers can access formal reception facilities, they have nowhere else to go. 

And while the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and other NGOs work tirelessly to provide food, water, information and legal advice, it’s simply not enough to match the soaring level of needs.

It’s clear that EU member states like Italy need to urgently invest in their reception systems, ensuring these are part of a safe, orderly and humane approach to migration. 

Everyone should have a secure place to sleep and access to their basic needs — particularly people with vulnerabilities such as women and children.

However, in the glaring absence of a sustainable EU asylum system rooted in solidarity and relocation, which would ease the pressure on Europe’s southernmost states, many are taking a different path. 

A way of outsourcing responsibility

A number of European governments have instead been exploring deals with non-EU countries intending to stop asylum seekers from setting foot on their soil in the first place.

The most recent of these is Italy’s new agreement with Albania. This would see the majority of people rescued at sea in Italian waters sent directly to Albania, where they would be held in detention centres while their asylum claims are considered.

This is not the first time a member state has looked into the possibility of outsourcing responsibility for asylum and migration management in this way, but there are fundamental reasons why these past proposals have not gone ahead: they are costly, cruel, counterproductive, and legally dubious.

One key concern is that EU states are legally required to uphold the right to seek asylum, regardless of how people arrive on their territory. 

The proposal to send people rescued at sea to Albania is in clear contravention of this legal principle — not to mention the union’s values of respect for human rights and dignity.

Secondly, Italy cannot guarantee that people’s rights will be upheld in their two planned detention centres in Albania. 

While the Italian government has said that its new rules will not apply to pregnant women, children or people with vulnerabilities, the deal does not explicitly confirm this, and huge questions remain as to how this exemption would be implemented in practice. 

Pushing people into harm’s way

Moreover, it is still far from clear how people held in the Albanian centres would access legal advice. 

The IRC’s teams on the Greek islands have evidenced the devastating impact of de facto detention on asylum seekers’ mental health, where 95% of people supported by our psychosocial teams in 2023 reported symptoms of anxiety and 86% of depression. 

It is difficult to see how this will be mitigated in Albania — a country that is not bound by EU rules and regulations.

Thirdly, the EU’s deals with Turkey and other countries such as Libya and Tunisia provide clear evidence that deterrence measures will not stop people from risking their lives in search of safety and security in Europe. 

If anything, they simply exacerbate the dangers and suffering that people in need of international protection face by pushing them into the hands of smugglers or traffickers, and onto ever more perilous routes. 

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Evidence shows that attempting to deter asylum seekers by creating harsher policies has little to no effect on arrival numbers. 

Not only do these policies push people into harm’s way and violate fundamental rights, but they do not even succeed in their terms of deterring asylum seekers. It’s time for the EU and its member states to forge a different approach.

No one risks their life if there are other options

European leaders should start by shifting their focus away from preventing people from reaching EU territory, to protecting them along their journeys. 

The IRC’s teams in Italy, and more broadly across Europe, see every day the difference that dignified reception can make to the lives of people seeking protection. 

Italy must meet the obligations laid out in the EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion to ensure that all newcomers are welcomed with dignity and respect. 

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Our experience shows that when people are supported to integrate from day one, it brings immense benefits both to new arrivals and their host communities.

More than 3,000 people died or went missing attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean in 2023, bringing the total over the past decade to almost 30,000 individuals — many of whom would have been granted refugee status if they had made it to Europe. 

Nobody puts their lives in the hands of smugglers unless they cannot access other options. The EU and its member states must urgently expand safe routes so people are not forced onto these dangerous journeys.

This will require significantly scaling up resettlement — a vital lifeline enabling the transfer of refugees from their first country of asylum to safety in Europe — on which EU states have failed to meet their joint commitments year-on-year. 

This must be completed by expanding other safe routes such as humanitarian corridors, family reunification and visas for work or study.

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An opportunity to do things right might just slip away

Last week, the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum — which will pave the way for the EU’s approach to migration in the coming years — was approved by EU states. 

It is crucial to ensure that this does not result in even more deterrence, violence and detention of people entitled to international protection. 

At this pivotal moment, it is essential that EU member states go above the minimum standards set out in the pact, and lose no time in creating the right environment for refugees and asylum seekers to thrive. 

If they fail to do so, they will see the opportunity to create a safe, orderly, and humane asylum system slip ever further from view.

Harlem Désir is the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Senior Vice-President, Europe, and Susanna Zanfrini is IRC’s Italy Country Director.

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The UNRWA case reveals a much larger problem with humanitarian aid

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

The global consensus that humanitarian work is essential too easily surrenders the moral high ground, often with devastating consequences. It is time to recover that ground, Ambassador Mark Wallace and Dr Hans-Jakob Schindler write.

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Evidence implicating UNRWA employees in the 7 October terrorist attacks should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the activities of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees closely. 

Allegations that some UNRWA workers were in fact Hamas operatives are merely the latest iteration of a much larger problem plaguing the international aid sector. 

A stunning lack of oversight and regulation of humanitarian funds over the past several decades has allowed untold billions in taxpayer money to make their way into terrorists’ coffers.

While aid agencies may baulk at what they perceive as burdensome “red tape”, strict oversight and transparency are in fact fundamental to humanitarian work: they ensure that aid is delivered to those who need it, not diverted to extremist and terrorist groups.

Claims of no knowledge increasingly strain credulity

For years, UNRWA has played host to bad actors uninterested in a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

According to a dossier presented by Israeli intelligence, one in ten staff are terrorist “operatives”. 

Some 23% of male UNRWA workers in Gaza have ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), compared to 15% of male Gazans as a whole. And 49% are alleged to have “close relatives” also tied to either Hamas or PIJ. 

Claims by UNRWA that it had no knowledge of the vast network of Hamas tunnels under schools and hospitals, funded by billions of dollars of diverted aid, increasingly strain credulity.

Several UNRWA personnel over the years have been discovered to be terrorists or officials of terrorist organisations, including PIJ rocket-maker Awad al-Qiq, former Hamas interior minister Said Siam, and Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in 2009.

On 7 October, 12 UNRWA personnel helped Hamas execute the massacre, or aided the group in the wake of the attack. 

According to the dossier, one of the agency staffers took a woman hostage, another dispensed ammunition, and a third took part in mass murder at an Israeli kibbutz.

This case is no exception

How did humanitarian workers come to play a role in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust? 

The reality is that UNRWA is by no means the exception when it comes to humanitarian terror financing. In the world of international aid, it’s an occupational hazard.

Throughout the 1990s, the Taliban regularly harassed and robbed aid agencies. The current Taliban regime likewise uses a network of sham local organisations to divert aid money. 

In the early 2000s, reports emerged that in Somalia, the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab had siphoned off so much international aid that it established a “Humanitarian Coordination Office”, charging aid groups to “register”. 

Several years later, al-Shabaab continued to extort aid deliveries via roadblocks and so-called “taxes”.

In 2018, a partial audit of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) found that some $700 million (€649m) of US taxpayer-funded programming in Iraq and Syria had been improperly vetted. 

That same year, several dozen individuals and organisations who had received USAID funding in the region were blacklisted, and over $200m (€185.5m) in funds were frozen.

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The Houthi rebel group in Yemen stifles almost all movement of international aid through the areas they control; they have set up a “humanitarian” agency, the Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation (SCMCHA), for the express purpose of re-directing aid toward their own militant ends. The results have been catastrophic for the Yemeni people.

Decisions that didn’t age well

Regulating aid is not simply about alleviating security concerns. On the ground, any dime relinquished to a militant group is unlikely to achieve its stated aims and, as in the case of UNRWA, in fact, exacerbates the conflict it is trying to alleviate.

Just two years ago, the Biden administration began funding UNRWA again on the basis that the organisation had made commitments to “transparency, accountability, and neutrality”. 

Several European governments, including Germany, even increased UNRWA funding in the wake of the October attacks.

Those decisions have obviously not aged well. But they are the result of a steady flow of arguments from humanitarian workers and aid groups who claim that regulations and sanctions, even with humanitarian exemptions, do little more than hamper their work. 

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This attitude is dangerously dismissive, as former UNRWA General Counsel James Lindsay wrote in a 2009 report: “UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from [its] ranks…and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organisations, such as Hamas, from joining.”

We can’t keep surrendering the moral high ground

Brutal terror groups and extremist regimes will always see humanitarian funds as quasi-piggy banks for enhancing their own power. 

Effective oversight, budget transparency, complete reporting requirements, as well as internal and external controls are indispensable elements to ensure that any developing problems are caught early, aid diversion is mitigated, and guardrails are in place to prevent international aid workers from being involved in terror groups or attacks.

Despite criticism from the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, several European countries, in addition to the US, have now suspended payments to UNRWA. This is a step in the right direction. 

The global consensus that humanitarian work is essential too easily surrenders the moral high ground, often with devastating consequences. 

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It is time to recover that ground, which has for too long provided cover for the worst acts of terrorism. 

Ambassador Mark Wallace serves as CEO and Dr Hans-Jakob Schindler is Senior Director at the Counter Extremism Project.

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The unexpected upside of Russia’s liberal candidate who was not to be

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

Boris Nadezhdin’s role was to be a certified loser. Yet, as hopeless and uninspiring of a candidate he was, he unwittingly gave Russian liberals hope, Aleksandar Đokić writes.

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After a week of what could be described as peak cheap court drama at its finest, the last liberal potential candidate for the Russian presidential election, Boris Nadezhdin, has been finally rejected by the country’s Central Electoral Commission.

In a tense administrative showdown of the opening week of February, Nadezhdin first submitted 104,700 signatures necessary for his candidature to be approved, since he isn’t running as a representative of a parliamentary political party. 

The Central Electoral Commission, the bureaucratic body which formally decides whether aspiring candidates fulfil the criteria to run in the elections or not, then went on to scrap 9,147 of those, or more than the legally allowed 5% of invalid signatures. 

Nadezhdin appealed the decision, but the bureaucrats ultimately rejected his complaint on Thursday.

In the end, there will be just four candidates running for the post of Russia’s supreme leader, all of them representatives of parliamentary parties, which are eligible to run by default. 

All other candidates, except Vladimir Putin himself, had their hopes dashed by the Central Electoral Commission. 

Putin’s official rivals for the 17 March election will be LDPR’s Leonid Slutsky, Nikolay Kharitonov of the Communist Party, and New People’s Vladislav Davankov.

All of them constitute what is known as loyal opposition; in other words, they’re window dressing, as Putin can’t be the only candidate, it’s against the Constitution and the optics are rather bad. 

The message out of the Kremlin to Russians is, the bare bones of democratic pretence must be maintained.

Hardly the leader we need

On the other hand, Boris Nadezhdin himself was not what one would call a leader of the liberal or any kind of opposition by any means at all. 

Over the years, he has repeatedly participated in political talk shows broadcast on Russian federal TV channels, as a handpicked representative of what was supposed to be “liberal opposition”. 

He was on the infamous Vladimir Solovyov’s show more than once, whose rants can only be compared to those of Hans Fritzsche, the Nazi star radio host, later convicted of war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal. 

Nadezhdin also frequently took part in other federal TV talk shows such as Pyotr Tolstoy’s “Time Will Tell” and was a guest on Yevgeny Popov’s and Olga Skabeeva’s “60 Minutes” program. 

All of the “journalists” mentioned above went on to join Putin’s United Russia party and renounced any semblance of journalist integrity. The democratic world has also sanctioned them in the meantime.

Nadezhdin’s political background is in line with his previous, but more successful colleagues from the ranks of Putin’s technocratic elite of today, such as the influential post-Soviet mainstay Sergey Kiriyenko, known as one of Boris Yeltsin’s former prime ministers. 

Nadezhdin was also a member of Boris Nemtsov’s team at the end of the 1990s when the liberal wing of Russia’s political system had its last hurrah. 

Nemtsov was assassinated late into Putin’s era, refusing to submit to autocratic rule, like many of his peers did. 

Nadezhdin went on to change several mainstream liberal parties in Russia while Putin was already in power. 

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He worked with Putin’s former Minister of Finance Alexey Kudrin and took part in the primaries of Putin’s United Russia party in 2015 but was defeated. Then, in 2021, he unsuccessfully ran in the parliamentary elections as the representative of the Just Russia party, which was by then an openly alt-right political organisation completely loyal to Putin.

Supporting the platform, not the face on the posters

In essence, Nadezhdin as a political figure bears no importance. Putin’s administration could’ve picked anyone out of several other characters ready to perfectly fill his shoes as representatives of the loyal liberal opposition. 

What matters for Russian society and bears mentioning is the effect which Nadezhin’s failed candidacy achieved — an effect which even Nadezhdin himself couldn’t have hoped for.

In another twist of cynical irony, his last name happens to contain the word “hope”. And all of a sudden, traces of hope appeared, albeit briefly.

For the first time since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian liberal public dared to show its collective face on the streets of the big cities. 

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Long queues of people who wanted to give their signatures and show support for his candidacy could be seen as early as the beginning of this year.

This was mainly achieved by the real liberal opposition, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexey Navalny’s associates, unexpectedly standing behind his candidacy. 

From then on, it didn’t matter in the slightest whether Nadezhdin was coopted by Putin’s administration or not; he still ran on the anti-war and pro-democracy platform and the large number of people supporting him did so because of the issues and not out of affection for him as a political leader. 

Maybe hope does die last after all

What came to be was the next best thing to protest in Russia’s middle-class circles. 

For the first time, in the middle of totalitarian Russia, liberals took to the streets, stood next to each other, likely conversed on political issues and no force could scare them away. This is a big deal for Russia’s atomised big-city segment of society.

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Liberal support for Nadezhdin grew so much, that he was realistically seen as a runner-up in the coming elections, an outcome Putin’s administration did not want to see happening. 

Nadezhdin’s role was to be a certified loser, garnering no more than 1-2% of votes, thus demonstrating to fragmented and disenchanted Russian liberals that they were isolated and few in numbers. 

The snowball effect of grassroots support for Nadezhdin annihilated the premise of Putin’s team, so when the first independent polling results came out, giving Nadezhdin a projected share of no less than 10%, it was clear that his project was to be cancelled and his candidacy refused. 

By then, however, it was already too late to erase the positive social effect Nadezhdin’s candidacy had caused. 

The decision of the Russian liberal opposition turned out to be the right one, for a change. 

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Nadezhdin had achieved what they could not. He brought Russian liberals out of their kitchens, where serious matters in Russian society are commonly discussed, and into the open. 

And as hopeless and uninspiring of a candidate as he was, he unwittingly gave Russian liberals hope.

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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Heading into the presidential election, America is angry and worried

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

Donald Trump leads confidently in the swing states, but the November presidential election still holds serious challenges, John McLaughlin writes.

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In swing states, Donald Trump’s advantage is currently five percentage points: 48% would vote for him, and 43% for Joe Biden.

If the former Democrat, now running as an independent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is also on the ballot, Trump’s advantage is even greater, rising to eight points: 42% support Trump, 34% support Biden, and 11% support Kennedy.

However, the day when a decision must be made is still far away.

What do the numbers say?

McLaughlin & Associates conducted a survey among 1,600 likely general election voters in 17 election battleground states between 16-21 January.

We found that a vast majority of American voters, 73%, believe that things are going in the wrong direction in the country, while only 27% believe that things are going well. 

This is especially true concerning the economy: half of those living in swing states reported that their lives got worse since Joe Biden became president, 33% said their situation had not changed based on their admission, and only 17% reported that their standard of living had improved.

Currently, 45% of voters feel anger or disappointment when they think about the state of the country, and 41% feel concern or fear. Their share has increased by six percentage points since last year. Only 14% feel pride, and their share has gone down by four points since 2023.

The details of the research also reveal that Donald Trump is the “leader of the angry” today. 

Among those who feel anger and disappointment, Trump’s advantage over Biden is nearly 30 points (in this round, Trump received 60% of the votes, with Biden scoring only 31%). 

However, among those who feel concern and fear, the competition is much closer: Biden leads by six points, 48/42. Yet, the proportion of the latter group among American voters is on the rise.

The situation is understandable in many ways. The explosion of inflation, the subsequent economic uncertainty, uncontrolled illegal immigration, the deterioration of public safety in American cities, or the significant increase in the number and risks of armed conflicts raging around the world all increase the concerns and fears of voters. 

The world seems increasingly unpredictable. We live in an anxious, uncertain age.

Winning over moderate voters is the path to victory

As the presidential election approaches, those moderate, middle-of-the-road voters, or voters who identify themselves as independent, who are otherwise not interested in politics, become more and more active in the political sense. But in this case, their opinion can be of decisive importance. 

In this segment, fears and worries make up the majority: 45% of “moderate” voters feel worried about the state of the country, 39% feel anger and dissatisfaction, and only 16% feel pride. 

By mobilizing those in the middle, the so-called “moderate” voters, the proportion and importance of those who are looking for protection and security in an increasingly uncertain world in economic and political terms can further increase. 

Winning over these voters is a political challenge for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, faced similar challenges in 2010, before his re-election. 

At that time, Hungary was suffering from the consequences of the great global economic crisis of 2008, and voters were angry and desperate. 

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Then, Orbán’s campaign focused on “hearing, seeing, and feeling the economic fears and concerns of Hungarians”, and the way out was through the removal of the ruling left-wing government, to achieve a “strong Hungary”. 

Orbán won the election because, in addition to the angry right-wing voters, he also paid attention to those moderates who were worried, felt insecure, and feared for the future of their families.

A battle of characters ahead

The American presidential election is always a battle of characters.

Voters in battleground states see Joe Biden as a weak leader. According to 74%, he is a weak leader. He is considered too old and many question his mental health (82% of voters). 

However, it is also undeniable that many people see him as a kind of “grandparent, grandfather” figure who has seen, experienced, and understands a lot. He understands those who are afraid, afraid for the future of their family and the country.

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As the leader of “angry Americans”, Donald Trump is undeniably strong, charismatic, and unafraid to fight. However, it is important to whom you are fighting for and why. 

You can fight China, the corrupt bureaucracy in Washington, or even the radical left — all of this is far from the everyday life of many. 

We could also say that all this is just “politics about politics”. Those who are worried and anxious about the future need a strong leader who uses his power to protect them. American families, early risers, decent workers — the backbone of America.

Right now, however, Trump is an advocate for the angry. It will become clear during the campaign whether he will be able to appeal to those who fear for their own or their family’s future. 

Even a near-equal result with Biden in this group would tip the November elections in Trump’s direction.

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A strong leader to arise?

Donald Trump now needs productive fights where he can stand up to protect American families from crime, the risk of terrorism, and drug trafficking flowing in through open borders, while also making sure that those who work hard can also make a living, not only the corrupt elite in Washington. 

His fight would also consist of preventing the dollar from losing its purchasing power while making sure homes can run on affordable energy. 

These are struggles where moderate voters can feel that the strong leader not only defeats his political opponents, but is also useful to them, because he fights for them, protects them, and can create security.

For Trump, fighting such productive conflicts could lead to another victory by winning over moderate voters.

John McLaughlin is CEO of McLaughlin & Associates.

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Will Zelenskyy’s four-star general become his main political opponent?

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

The Zelenskyy-Zaluzhnyi beef is a reminder that the essence of politics lies in disagreement or divergence of group interests — especially when those interests involve the survival of the nation and its people, Aleksandar Đokić writes.

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As the war in Ukraine nears the two-year mark, global attention has radically shifted away from Russia’s ongoing act of aggression. Battlefield reports have become scarce, and the continued humanitarian crisis affecting tens of millions of Ukrainians barely makes the news any more.

Yet, the most recent bombshell out of Kyiv alleging a behind-the-scenes dispute between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and army commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi brought Ukraine to the headlines of the media around the world once more. 

Rumours of Zaluzhnyi’s imminent dismissal as a consequence of an ever-widening rift between two key figures in wartime Ukraine of today are said to be tied to the fact that Zaluzhnyi — seen by many as a level-headed realist — has become increasingly more popular among Ukrainians than Zelenskyy himself.

While the Ukrainian president dismissed this as “not true”, fears over Zaluzhnyi’s rise in popularity in domestic politics would serve to prove that, while a nation’s unity in times of war might be strong, concord in politics tends to be very short-lived.

And if anything, the Zelenskyy-Zaluzhnyi beef is a reminder that the essence of politics lies in disagreement or divergence of group interests — especially when those interests involve the survival of the nation and its people.

What unites a country?

In fact, history has shown that the unity of the people and various political options is an unnatural state in the realm of politics. 

This coming together of an entire society is usually either a product of tyranny from within — where unity represents merely a false image of itself, as in the case of Vladimir Putin’s Russia — or forced from the outside by aggressive foreign powers threatening the sole existence of a nation. 

Going a mere decade back, Ukrainian society was, like any other, divided between conflicting interests of various groups, represented by political parties, with a meddling oligarchic element to boot. 

However, Ukrainians already had a unifying incentive, that many societies luckily don’t have — an increasingly aggressive and revanchist great power at its doorstep, attempting to capture Ukraine’s territory and reconfigure its national identity. 

The Ukrainian political class didn’t only face the cumbersome task of building democratic institutions and curbing oligarchic influence over the political sphere. It also had to do so while dealing with the military aggression of its now resurgent former imperial master. 

Enter Zelenskyy

Fast forward to the last presidential electoral cycle in Ukraine in 2019: the current president of the country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, achieved a unifying effect never seen before in contemporary Ukrainian politics. 

In the runoff, he got both the west and the east of the country to support him, while replacing a string of oligarchs who preceded him, including Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Yanukovich.

Russia’s total war against Ukraine in 2022 changed the political landscape of both countries. 

Moscow slid into totalitarianism, while in Ukraine, the vast majority of the nation rallied around President Zelenskyy, a political figure only a few considered to be as resilient as he turned out to be. 

Zelenskyy, a man of charisma and a politician who understood how to appropriately communicate with a wide audience, helped the Ukrainian people beat back the main onslaught of Russian troops. 

Western aid, in terms of armaments and finances, came later. It was Zelenskyy’s voice, his presence, that instilled hope in the hearts of Ukrainians around the world. 

Even those who mocked him and thought he was incapable of holding the highest political office, came to respect his actions when they were needed the most, and Zelenskyy went on to become a globally recognised leader of a nation embroiled in a David vs Goliath-esque contest.

The nature of politics inevitably rears its head

However, after nearly two years of bloody war, the frontlines barely moving, and new wars and crises arising elsewhere, Ukraine lost its leading place in the world news reports. Zelenskyy’s aplomb just wasn’t enough any more. 

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Internally, the nature of politics began to show itself. By mid-2023, it was already clear that Zelenskyy would be facing renewed opposition. 

His controversial former advisor Oleksiy Arestovych immediately presented himself as a promising potential leader of the “stalemate” or “sober” party — claiming to be the actual realist in the room. 

He alone, nonetheless, didn’t stand much chance against Zelenskyy, having switched too many political camps in his career, and it became evident that not many of those who were a part of the pre-war opposition would back him. 

With Zelenskyy at the helm of the determined resistance strain of Ukrainian politics, then who could be the face of the stalemate party, without him or her being labelled a defeatist or, even worse, Putin’s agent? 

The answer to that question was clear to the opposition veterans from the start — four-star general Valerii Zaluzhnyi definitely fits the bill. 

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Will the four-star general stand and be counted?

The general, already a war hero, is surely a strong-willed and determined individual, marked by the makings of a Macarthurian type of character. And more importantly, he has the overwhelming trust of the Ukrainian people on his side.

A December 2023 poll by the Kyiv Institute of Sociology showed that 88% of Ukrainians supported Zaluzhnyi, while Zelenskyy’s approval rating hovered at around 62%.

The same poll demonstrated that while the absolute majority of Ukrainians also do not favour the option of peace in lieu of giving up a part of their country’s territory — 74% are against it — a growing number of people now see the stalemate as a possibility, with 19% ready to accept it (up from 14% in October and 10% in May).

Zaluzhnyi’s words in a now-infamous interview in November 2023, where he expressed his reservation that Ukraine might be stuck in a long and costly war, have stung the ever-persistent Zelenskyy just as much as they have made the possible pact with the devil seem slightly more acceptable than the continued devastation of Ukraine.

At the same time, his outspoken and direct takes also piqued the interest of the nearly-inert Ukrainian opposition, already significantly weakened after the 2019 elections and following February 2022, when it lost almost all of its appeal. 

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Yet, the passage of time and lack of progress on the battlefield has made them once again engage in a political match against Zelenskyy, as can be gleaned from those from the Verkhovna Rada issuing accusatory statements aimed at him while supporting Zaluzhnyi to the Western press these days. 

All they need now is a respectable leader to stand and be counted.

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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Islamophobia is surging throughout Europe. Here’s how we stop it

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

It’s crucial for leaders and everyday people to unite in a remarkable effort to confront the pervasive hatred in our communities. It’s not just minorities that are at risk, it’s the Western world too, and our shared values of freedom, justice and equality, Naz Shah writes.

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Earlier this month, a plot between AfD party officials and neo-Nazis to deport millions of ethnic minorities from Germany was uncovered. 

But this conspiracy is part of a sinister undercurrent sweeping Europe and the wider Western world – one that goes hand-in-hand with a relentless surge in Islamophobia.

Since the atrocities of 7 October and the ongoing onslaught against the people of Gaza, Islamophobia in the UK has surged 600%.

Yet the British government has responded by inflaming rhetoric rather than promoting messages of unity.

Recently, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used an Islamophobic trope as a response to another Muslim MP, which I was forced to call out on the floor of the Commons.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government has spent their time and effort – not healing worsening social ties or resolving the conflict in the Middle East – but forcing through the controversial Rwanda asylum plan that is the epitome of institutionalised xenophobia.

But xenophobia is becoming more than normalised in the echelons of political power – it is becoming key to winning elections across Europe, and beyond.

It’s all down to the power of fear

From Sweden to Greece, far-right groups and populist leaders are not just participating in elections; they are winning, often in record numbers. 

Geert Wilders’ ascent in the Netherlands, fueled by decades-worth of anti-Muslim rhetoric, including the promise to ban mosques and the Qur’an, exemplifies how Europe is faced with a political trend not towards integration and acceptance, but hate and exclusion.

And it could get a lot worse.

Should Donald Trump be elected US President this November, the Western world will have turned a new disturbing corner, where minorities become scapegoats for the ills of Western society. 

For example, Trump recently said immigrants were “poisoning the blood [of America]” to raucous applause from crowds.

There is no doubt that his ascent to the White House would herald an even stronger far-right revival, emboldening new populists to emerge from other EU nations.

But why is this divisive rhetoric, key to electoral success, resonating with so many? The answer lies in the power of fear.

Working tirelessly to humanise the other

For example, the great replacement theory that so many far-right populists exhort asserts Western civilization is facing an existential threat in a culture war against Western values. 

That narrative, of the West fighting for survival against an imagined onslaught of Islamization, is designed to tap into deep-seated existential fears.

And to some degree, it’s working.

Europe is being pulled towards far-right ideologies at a scale reminiscent of the preludes to World War II. 

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It isn’t just a political trend; it’s a dangerous slide towards an era of division and hostility, one that will challenge the very foundations of our democratic values.

How then, do we address a trend that threatens to engulf Western Muslims, other minorities, and core Western values of empathy, tolerance, and mutual respect?

Well, for one, we must work tirelessly to humanise the other. History shows that escalating persecution and violence against minorities is always paired with their dehumanization.

A set of values against the far right’s divisive rhetoric

This is why education must play a pivotal role. Schools must incorporate curricula that foster a better understanding of Islamic culture through exposure and knowledge of those with different backgrounds.

But education in schools must complement wider education in society.

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That’s why my participation in the Conference of European and British Muslim Leaders this past year was a pivotal moment for the British Muslim community.

This gathering, orchestrated by the Muslim World League in London convened hundreds of the most influential Muslim figures in Britain. At the centre of the conference was the Charter of Makkah, a sweeping bill of Islamic rights and values backed by over 1,200 scholars from 139 countries which testifies to Islam’s commitment to modern ideals.

For example, the charter emphasizes environmental stewardship, religious tolerance, and women’s rights. 

But these values are more than abstract ideals; they are integral to the daily lives of British Muslims. Importantly, they go directly against the divisive rhetoric of far-right extremists.

It’s time to put out the fires of extremist ideologies

This matters immensely. Recognising the shared values between British Muslims and the wider society strikes at the root of extremism. And such appreciation strengthens the fabric of our society, bolstering its resilience against divisive forces.

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But resilience cannot only come from us. The media, society, and government also have important roles to play.

For example, policy interventions remain crucial. The political obsession with Islamophobia is distracting policymakers from addressing the increase in white nationalist terrorism, which has risen at least 320% in the past decade and increasingly targeting the young. 

Ironically, the narratives that far-right parties are spewing against Muslims are precisely the fuel that this extremist ideology depends upon.

This is why governments should develop information campaigns about the dangers of the far-right alongside legislation that protects communities from hate crimes and hate speech. 

This is particularly relevant to social media and the online world, where the far-right feels they have a free pass to spread hatred.

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It is also time for the UK government to adopt the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia. After all, how can you tackle something you cannot define or understand?

Ultimately, it’s crucial for leaders and everyday people to unite in a remarkable effort to confront the pervasive hatred in our communities. 

Because it’s not just minorities that are at risk, it’s the Western world too, and our shared values of freedom, justice and equality.

Naz Shah is a Member of the UK Parliament for Bradford West, serving as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Muslim Women, and Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Race and Community, British Muslims, and others. Shah has also served as Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.

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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