Horror in Hroza: Counting cost of a missile attack on soldier’s wake

At least 52 people are known to have died in the attack, with rumours spreading that a traitor is among the 250 survivors.


The cafe Hroza in the Kharkiv region had been closed throughout the war in Ukraine but reopened especially for a dead soldier’s wake, and almost every household in the village sent someone to mourn its native son.

When the gathering to honour Andrii Kozyr was struck by a precision missile that Ukrainian officials said was fired by Russia, almost every household in Hroza in eastern Ukraine lost someone.

The cafe was obliterated. Entire families perished in an instant. In all, 52 people died out of a population of 300. Many villagers now suspect that a local may have tipped off Russian forces.

Soldier’s wife, mother and son killed in attack

On Friday, a day after the strike, an earth mover extended the graveyard to make room for them all. Among the dead were a couple who left behind four children; the village leader and three generations of the soldier’s family, including his wife, mother and son, who also fought for Ukraine and had requested leave to attend the funeral held shortly before the wake.

It could be months before DNA identifies most of the remains. For now, the names are scrawled on cardboard or white plastic squares, and string marks the boundaries of the fresh graves.

Only six people in the cafe survived, and the town is trying to fathom why and how the wake was targeted.

Like much of the region east of the regional capital of Kharkiv, Hroza was under Russian occupation for six months, until September 2022, when Ukrainian troops liberated the area.

Locals say it is strictly a civilian area. There has never been any military base, whether Russian or Ukrainian. They said only civilians or family came to the funeral and wake, and residents were the only people who would have known where and when it was taking place.

Ukrainian officials said the weapon was a precision Iskander-style missile, which is said to have an accuracy of five to seven metres.

Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor, said investigators are looking into whether someone from the area transmitted the cafe’s coordinates to the Russians — a betrayal to everyone now grieving in Hroza.

‘The children are gone. That’s all, they’re gone’

Many share that suspicion, describing a strike timed to kill the maximum number of people. The date of the funeral was set a few weeks ago, and the time was shared throughout the village late last week.

Valerii and Liubov Kozyr lost their daughter and son-in-law in the attack, along with their son-in-law’s parents, who had been childhood friends of theirs. That makes them the sole guardians of three of their four grandchildren, ages 10 to 19. They said the 19-year-old had been taken to Russia during the occupation and was trapped there.

Their daughter, Olha, married Anatolii Panteleiev when she was just 16, and the two had been married for two decades and lived next door to her parents. Their son-in-law was friends with Andrii Kozyr, and though they shared a last name, he wasn’t related to the dead soldier.

The couple’s red Niva was still parked in the driveway Friday, but their home was empty. And the morning ritual of a cup of coffee shared among generations was shattered. In the hallway was a portrait of Olha, taken two years ago in the cafe where she would later die.

When Liubov heard the explosion, she ran outside and looked toward the source of the sound.

“The children are gone. That’s all, they’re gone,” she told her husband. Valerii rode his bicycle to the cafe but refused to let his wife accompany him. What he saw was unbearable, he said.

That night, house after house along the village’s main street was empty and unlit.

Not all bodies could be identified. Valerii went to the cemetery nonetheless to reserve a space, marking “Panteleiev family: 4 people” on a cardboard sign.


The pair gathered in a courtyard Friday with a friend who had lost two siblings in the missile strike, the men crying and cursing the war. Then, they recalled each person they knew who was killed in the strike. The list was long.

Further down the street, 15-year-old Ksiusha Mukhovata skipped class to go with her older brother to give a DNA sample. Their parents were at the wake, along with their paternal grandmother.

The desk where their father had been teaching online since the bombing of his school was still scattered with his papers. Ksiusha’s grandmother, Tetiana Lukashova, said she still had the feeling that the darkened homes would spring to life, as though everything had just been frozen in time.

“I hardly even cried,” the 15-year-old girl said of her first night without her parents. “We looked at photos on the laptop. Tried to get some sleep.”

She sat on the floor surrounded by photographs documenting decades of her family’s history and of the village. From time to time, she took out a new photo and pointed to the smiling faces of people who were somehow related to her family: “This one died” or “She was there too.”


When the explosion happened, Ksiusha was attending an online class at school. She immediately messaged her best friend, Alina, because she was surprised that her parents hadn’t called her, as she was home alone.

At first, her 23-year-old brother went to the site of the attack. She followed him with Alina, whose mother and sister died in the blast, and whose grandmother is in critical condition. Ksiusha walked among the crowd, trying to focus her attention on the faces of those who were alive.

When evening came, Ksiusha went to sleep in her brother’s room. To reach her own, she would have to walk through the room where her parents slept.

“I don’t want to sleep there,” she said.

After the missile strike, the Kharkiv region declared a period of mourning and ordered flags flown at half-staff.


Asked about the strike on Hroza, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military doesn’t target civilians, despite ample evidence to the contrary over the course of the war.

“The strikes target military infrastructure and troop locations,” Peskov said.

Liubov Kozyr is still trying to figure out what the future could hold for her and her husband. They expected their daughter and son-in-law would be there through their old age, along with his parents, who had been friends and now were family.

For now, “I’m holding onto pills,” she said. “I take them, calm down a bit. I scream, scream, and then calm down.”

In Kharkiv, another family was torn apart by Russian airstrikes. A ten-year-old boy and his grandmother were killed there on Friday and thirty others were injured.

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Derna death toll expected to rise to over 20,000 in dam disaster

Engineers blame years of neglect for the failure of the two dams above Derna.

Libyan authorities limited access to the flooded city of Derna on Friday to make it easier for searchers to dig through the mud and hollowed-out buildings for the more than 10,000 people still missing and presumed dead following a disaster that has already claimed more than 11,000 lives.


The staggering death toll could grow further due to the spread of waterborne diseases and shifting of explosive ordnance that was swept up when two dams collapsed early Monday and sent a wall of water gushing through the city, officials warned.

The disaster has brought some rare unity to oil-rich Libya, which after years of war and civil strife is divided between rival governments in the country’s east and west that are backed by various militia forces and international patrons. But the opposing governments have struggled to respond to the crisis, and recovery efforts have been hampered by confusion, difficulty getting aid to the hardest-hit areas, and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges.

Aid groups called on authorities to facilitate their access to the city so they can distribute badly needed food, clean water and medical supplies to survivors. Four days into the crisis, the lack of central oversight was apparent, with people receiving supplies and resources in some parts of Derna but being left to fend for themselves in others.

Manoelle Carton, the medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Libya, described waiting in line for hours to get into the city and, once inside, finding volunteers from around the country who had flocked to Derna getting in the way of humanitarian workers at times.

“Everybody wants to help. But it is becoming chaotic,” she said. “There is an enormous need for coordination.”

Teams have buried bodies in mass graves outside the city and in nearby towns, Eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, said.

But officials worried that thousands more have yet to be found.

Bodies “are littering the streets, washing back up on shore and buried under collapsed buildings and debris,” said Bilal Sablouh, regional forensics manager for Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“In just two hours, one of my colleagues counted over 200 bodies on the beach near Derna,” he said.

Divers are also searching the waters off the Mediterranean coastal city.

Carton said later Friday that most of the dead bodies had been cleared from the streets in the areas of the city the Doctors Without Borders team visited, but there were other grim signs, including that one of the three medical centres they went to was out of service “because almost all of the medical staff died.” Thousands of people displaced by the flooding are staying in shelters or with friends or relatives, she said.


Adel Ayad, who survived the flood, recalled watching as the waters rose to the fourth floor of his building.

“The waves swept people away from the tops of buildings, and we could see people carried by floodwater,” he said. Among them were neighbours.

Salam al-Fergany, director general of the Ambulance and Emergency Service in eastern Libya, said late Thursday that residents would be evacuated from Derna and that only search-and-rescue teams would be allowed to enter. But there were no signs of such an evacuation on Friday.

Health officials warned that standing water opened the door to disease — but said there was no need to rush burials or put the dead in mass graves, as bodies usually do not pose a risk in such cases.

“You’ve got a lot of standing water. It doesn’t mean the dead bodies pose a risk, but it does mean that the water itself is contaminated by everything,” Dr. Margaret Harris, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, told reporters in Geneva. “So you really have to focus on ensuring that people have have access to safe water.”


Land mines warning

Imene Trabelsi, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned that another danger lurked in the mud: landmines and other explosives left behind by the country’s protracted conflict.

There are leftover explosives in Libya dating back to World War II, but most are from the civil conflict that began in 2011. Between 2011 and 2021, some 3,457 people were killed or wounded by landmines or other leftover explosive ordnance in Libya, according to the international Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

Even before the flooding, Trabelsi said the ability to detect and remove mines from areas was limited. After the floods, she said, explosive devices may have been swept to “new, undetected areas” where they could pose an immediate threat to search teams and a longer-term threat to civilians.

Carton echoed the concerns about an outbreak of water-related diseases in the city. Beyond that, she said, there is a “huge need in mental health support” among survivors, witnesses and medical workers.

According to the Libyan Red Crescent, there were 11,300 flooding deaths in Derna as of Thursday. Another 10,100 people were reported missing, though there was little hope many of them would be found alive, the aid group said. The storm also killed about 170 people elsewhere in the country.


The United Nations launched an appeal to raise more than $71 million to help a quarter of a million survivors of the floods.

Libyan media reported that dozens of Sudanese migrants were killed in the disaster. The country has become a major transit point for Middle Eastern and African migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to seek a better life in Europe.

Flooding often happens in Libya during the rainy season, but rarely with this much destruction. Scientists said the storm bore some of the hallmarks of climate change, and extremely warm sea water could have given the storm more energy and allowed it to move more slowly.

Officials have said that Libya’s political chaos also contributed to the loss of life. Khalifa Othman, a Derna resident, said he blamed authorities for the extent of the disaster.

“My son, a doctor who graduated this year, my nephew and all his family, my grandchild, my daughter and her husband are all missing, and we are still searching for them,” Othman said. “All the people are upset and angry — there was no preparedness.”

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Russia ‘improves position’ in northeast, West lining Putin’s coffers

All the latest developments from the Ukraine war.

Ukraine orders evacuations of 37 villages in Kharkiv region

 Ukrainian authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation Thursday of nearly 12,000 civilians from 37 towns and villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces reportedly are making a concerted effort to punch through the front line.


The local military administration in Kharkiv’s Kupiansk district said residents must comply with the evacuation order or sign a document saying they would stay at their own risk. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar had said the previous day that “the intensity of combat and enemy shelling is high” in the area.

The city of Kupiansk and the territories around it were under Russian occupation until September 2022, when Ukrainian forces conducted a rapid offensive operation that dislodged the Kremlin’s forces from nearly the entire Kharkiv region.

The Russian army said on Thursday it had “improved its positions” in northeastern Ukraine, where it has been on the offensive for several weeks. 

In its daily report, the Russian Defence Ministry said assault units had gained ground towards Kupyansk, a city in the Kharvkiv region. 

Yandex co-founder slams ‘barbaric’ offensive in Ukraine

The co-founder of Russian tech gem Yandex spoke out on Thursday against the “barbaric” invasion of Ukraine, a rare stance of defiance among Russian businessmen amid unprecedented repression.

“I oppose it [the war] categorically. I am horrified by the plight of the people of Ukraine, many of whom are friends and relatives, and whose homes are being bombed every day,” said Arkadi Voloj in a statement sent to AFP.

“I am against war,” he added.

In June 2022,  the entrepreneur resigned from Yandex, a search engine he co-founded in 1997 that has since become a giant in Russia. 

Living in Israel since the 2010s and presenting himself online as an “Israeli entrepreneur born in Kazakhstan”, Voloj claims to have spent the last 18 months “supporting talented Russian engineers who have decided to leave the country” so that they can “start a new life”.

After the Russian invasion began in 2020, Yandex was hit by several months of instability, with many employees leaving Russia. 


In December, the group’s management announced its reorganisation and the arrival of Vladimir Putin’s close friend as a “development adviser”, at a time when the Kremlin is trying to strengthen its hold on Russian tech companies. 

Before Voloj, billionaire Oleg Tinkov was the only major Russian businessman to speak out against the conflict in Ukraine.

West lining Putin’s coffers with nuclear fuel purchases

The US and its European allies are importing vast amounts of nuclear fuel from Russia, providing Moscow with hundreds of millions of euros in badly needed revenue as it wages war on Ukraine.

The sales, which are legal and unsanctioned, have raised alarms from nonproliferation experts and elected officials who say they are helping to bankroll Moscow and complicating efforts to curtail its war-making abilities. 

The dependence on Russian nuclear products — used mostly to fuel civilian reactors — leaves the US and its allies open to energy shortages if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to cut off supplies. 


The challenge is likely to grow more intense as those nations seek to boost the production of emissions-free electricity to combat climate change.

“We have to give money to the people who make weapons? That’s absurd,” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “If there isn’t a clear rule that prevents nuclear power providers from importing fuel from Russia — and it’s cheaper to get it from there — why wouldn’t they do it?”

Russia has sold about €1.5 billion in nuclear products to firms in the US and Europe, according to trade data and experts. 

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia continue

Russia claimed early on Thursday it shot down 13 Ukrainian drones, including 11 near Crimea and two heading towards Moscow, at a time when Russian-held territories are increasingly coming under attack.

No casualties or damage were reported, either near the Russian capital or the annexed peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.


Ukrainian drone attacks against Russia have markedly increased in recent weeks, while Moscow continues to hammer Ukraine. 

“War is coming to Russian territory… and it is an inevitable, natural and absolutely just process,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at the end of July.

Deadly Russian strike onZaporizhia

Two people were killed and seven injured on Wednesday in a Russian strike on Zaporizhia, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. 

The death toll in the major southern Ukrainian city was revised downwards after one person was resuscitated. 

Zelenskyy announced the previous casualty count, releasing a video that showed a damaged church, with flames and smoke in its courtyard, as well as another building on fire.

This city – home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – is located tens of kilometres from the southern front and is regularly the target of Russian bombardments.

German army employee arrested over spying for Russia

A man working for the German army has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia on Wednesday.  

The new case is considered embarrassing for Berlin amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has increased the threat of espionage.

Employed in the main IT and logistics department of the Bundeswehr, the man is “strongly suspected” of working for the Russian embassy in Berlin, announced the federal prosecutor’s office in a press release. 

He notably offered his services “on his own initiative”, they added. 

Owing to his role, the suspect could potentially access sensitive data on German military equipment, since his department was responsible for equipping the army, plus the testing, supply and management of these items. 

“Vigilance remains in order”, wrote the Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann on Twitter, now called X. 

Sanctions on Russia and Western military support for Kyiv have sparked “increased interest” from the Kremlin in gathering information, German officials said. 

Germany is one of Ukraine’s main suppliers of military equipment to fend off Russian troops.

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Ukraine war: French missiles, NATO friction, nuclear attack fears

France sends new missiles to Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that his country will deliver long-range “Scalp” missiles to Ukraine – and a French government source has confirmed the weapons have already been sent.

“The first missiles were delivered at the same time as our president announced it,” the source said on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Vilnius.

“We have decided to deliver new deep-strike missiles to Ukraine,” said Macron on his arrival at the event. 

“I think that what is important for us today is to send a message of support for Ukraine, of Nato’s unity”, he added.

The Kremlin called the move a “mistake” that will force Russia to take “countermeasures” in the conflict in Ukraine.

“From our point of view, this is a mistaken decision, with serious consequences for the Ukrainian side, because naturally it will force us to take countermeasures,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Meanwhile, Germany is to supply nearly €700 million worth of additional weapons to Ukraine, government sources said on Tuesday. 

Germany is one of the largest contributors of military aid to Ukraine. In May, Berlin announced it would deliver arms worth €2.7 billion. 

Russian drones strike grain facilities in Odesa

Russia launched 28 explosive drones at Ukraine during the night, targeting a port in the Odesa region, Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday. 

“A grain terminal in a port in the Odesa region” was the target of the “powerful” attack, said regional governor Oleg Kiper, without giving the name of the site.

The Odesa region is home to three ports that are part of the international agreement that allows grain exports to leave Ukraine despite the Russian invasion of the country. 

The deal expires on 17 July.

“Two terminals, one of which was a grain terminal, caught fire as a result of falling shrapnel from downed drones”, said Kiper, adding the fires had been extinguished without causing any major damage or casualties.

Russia has ‘no red lines’ on nuclear attacks – Ukrainian minister

The catastrophic collapse of the Kakhovka dam has raised fears that Russia might stage an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to cause panic and quell Ukrainian advances on the frontline, Ukraine’s energy minister claimed on Monday.

Herman Halushchenko said the dam’s destruction, while under Russian control in the Kherson region, warrants the level of alarm Ukraine’s leadership has raised in recent weeks, alleging Moscow might attack Europe’s largest nuclear plant. 

Halushchenko said he and Zelenskyy warned as early as October 2022 that the Russians could plant mines to blow up the Kakhovka dam.

“For many, many people it sounded ridiculous … and when it happened everybody understood that there are no red lines for them,” he said. “And of course, it’s all connected to the counter-offensive operation, and after Kakhovka, the one tool they still have is Zaporizhzhia.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alleged last week, citing intelligence reports, that Russian troops placed “objects resembling explosives” on top of several power units to “simulate” an attack. 

Drone and satellite images reportedly showed unidentified white objects on the roof of the plant’s fourth power unit, but Ukrainian leaders have so far been unable to provide further evidence.

Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute and satellite image expert, said the objects appeared to be placed on the unit’s turbine hall. If it turns out to be a bomb, it is unlikely to cause serious damage to the reactor, he added.

Zaporizhzhia was seized by Russia early on in the war in March 2022.  Since then, Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the plant amid fears of a nuclear accident.

Ukraine ‘de facto’ NATO member, says Zelenskyy

Ukraine is already in effect a member of NATO since most of the alliance stands with the war-torn nation, Zelenskyy said on Monday.

“The security reality here on NATO’s eastern flank depends on Ukraine. When we applied to join NATO, we were frank: Ukraine is de facto already in the alliance,” he said.

Zelenskyy also indicated that more military aid to Ukraine will be announced at  the NATO summit in Vilnius. 

“I am sure that there could be positive news regarding weapons for our men from Vilnius,” Zelenskyy said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has maintained that Ukraine will not be granted membership while it is still at war with Russia.  

Stoltenberg added that the Vilnius meeting will not issue a formal invitation to Ukraine, contrary to Zelenskyy’s nightly address. 

NATO’s summit will begin on Tuesday with fresh momentum after Turkey withdrew its objections to Sweden joining the alliance, a step toward the unity that Western leaders have been eager to demonstrate in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prigozhin’s commanders met Putin after mutiny – Kremlin

Just five days after staging a short-lived rebellion, Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s commanders met with Vladimir Putin and pledged loyalty to the government, a senior government spokesman said Monday.

The three-hour meeting took place on 29 June and involved not only Prigozhin but commanders from his Wagner Group military contractor, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Putin gave an assessment of Wagner’s actions on the battlefield in Ukraine, where the mercenaries have fought alongside Russian troops, and of the revolt itself, said Peskov.

“The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened. They underscored that they are staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the commander-in-chief, and also said that they are ready to continue to fight for their homeland.”

The confirmation that Putin met face-to-face with Prigozhin, who led troops on a march to Moscow last month to demand a military leadership change, is an extraordinary turn. Though the Russian leader branded Prigozhin a traitor as the revolt unfolded and vowed harsh punishment, the criminal case against the mercenary chief on rebellion charges was later dropped.

Russian military recruiter ‘assassinated’

A Russian official in charge of military mobilisation in the city of Krasnodar has been shot dead, authorities said on Monday evening, in the middle of a recruitment campaign.

In a statement, investigators said the body of the 42-year-old man was found on Monday morning with “bullet wounds” in a street in the Russian city.

According to the same source, the man was the deputy head of the town hall responsible for “mobilisation operations” in the army in Krasnodar.

Investigators are working to establish the identity of the perpetrator and the motive for the crime, the Investigative Committee said.

The state news agency TASS, citing police sources, said that the victim’s name was Stanislav Rjitski.

The Russian army has seen its ranks decimated since the start of the invasion, and has lately been conducting a vast military recruitment campaign to replenish its capacity.

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Buried with their executioners: Spain Civil War victims to be exhumed

Spain will try to exhume the bodies of 128 victims of late dictator Francisco Franco’s army buried without identification at the Valley of Cuelgamuros mausoleum.

When a crowd gathered in front of José Antonio Marco Viedma’s house, they chanted “Long live Christ the King!”

It was early September 1936, and in the town of Calatayud in north-east Spain, fervent Republican and Freemason Marco Viedma had already been arrested several times. 

He knew his life was in danger when he was illegally arrested by police loyal to the fanatic Falangist movement. 

“They took him and murdered him. They shot him while he was leaning on the wall of the Calatayud cemetery,” Silvia Navarro, Marco Viedma’s great-niece, tells Euronews.

His body was buried in a mass grave, and years later moved without the family’s permission to one of the side chapels inside the gigantic mausoleum of the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. 

The mausoleum complex near Madrid, in the Valley of Cuelgamuros — formerly known as the Valley of the Fallen — became a enduring symbol of decades of dictatorship, and a divisive shrine to the country’s bitter Civil War. 

“Authorities at the time exhumed the mass graves of the Franco army’s victims. Several families asked them not to take their relatives away and they didn’t listen,” says Navarro.

Her family did not know the remains of Marco Viedma had been moved until 2008, when the exhumation of the victims who died at the mass grave in the Calatayud cemetery was going to take place.

“My mother said to me: ‘Let’s see if you can find your great-uncle, it seems they are looking for him. We had a lot of hope but he wasn’t there”, says Navarro.

After 15 years of legal battle asking for a dignified burial, the family has managed to have hope again.

Forensic work has begun to try to exhume the bodies of 128 victims of Francisco Franco’s army buried anonymously in wooden boxes underground in the Valley of Cuelgamuros.

A forensic laboratory has been set up inside the mausoleum, with X-ray equipment, microscopes, measuring tools, tables and special lighting so that the experts can work. They are looking for the remains of victims whose families have asked for the bodies to be identified and returned. 

The mission of the archaeologists and geneticists will be to find the wooden boxes where the victims are buried and identify them if the inscription numbers cannot be distinguished.

The exhumations will be the first for victims under Spain’s historical memory laws, passed last October, which are aimed at making reparations to Franco’s victims.

Years of ‘psychological torture’

“The murder of my great-uncle inflicted great suffering on my family. After that, they went bankrupt, as he was the one who took care of the family business. They were also punished by their own neighbours and had to move to Madrid to start from scratch,” says Navarro.

For a long time her family felt haunted by the past, so when she received a message on her mobile phone early Monday morning and read that the exhumation work would begin, Navarro felt she could breathe easy.

“We have been waiting for years and it has been agonising. During this time, while waiting for exhumations to take place, many victim’s relatives have died without being able to bury them,” she says.

She feels it’s been a “psychological torture”. One of the relatives of another Franco victim used to tell her: “I wake up every day thinking that maybe today is the last one I have to keep waiting. And it’s the same year after year”.

Franco’s initial plan was to keep the Valley of Cuelgamuros for his army as the monument was erected to commemorate their victory.

However, its construction took longer than expected and, when it was finished, many of the relatives of the so-called “fallen for God and Spain”, the Nationalists, did not want to move the remains of their relatives who had already been buried.

It was then that the Ministry of Governance asked several town councils for bodies to be transferred. Local authorities denied the petition to send Nationalist coffins, but said they would send remains from Republican mass graves instead. 

After moving the victims, the process for families to be able to bury their loved ones has been tiring. Navarro defines it as one with many “advances and setbacks”.

It was halted on several occasions, first by pro-Franco groups and then by the mayor of the town where the Valle de Cuelgamuros is located, the conservative Carlota López Esteban.

Last March, the Supreme Court gave the green light to the exhumation work by rejecting the appeal filed by the Franco Foundation to impede the process.

The exhumation process

The valley of Cuelgamuros is the largest mass grave in Spain, containing the remains of 33,833 victims of both sides of the Civil War.

Until Francisco Franco’s exhumation in 2019 and José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s, the founder of the fascist Falangist party, last April, victims remained next to their executioners.

Most of them are in the crypts adjacent to the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre and the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament.

As the forensic anthropologists working on the project have described it to Spanish media, the recovery of the remains will be “a really exceptional challenge”.

The exhumation process will take several weeks if not months. It won’t be finished before the general elections, on 23 July, and this is something that worries the victims’ families.

“We are aware that the process is difficult and we are concerned that it won’t be finished on time. If there is a change of government we fear that they will halt the exhumation works”, says Navarro.

She believes one of the reasons in the past for it to take many years to start was a lack of political will.

“This should be a state issue, regardless of who is in power,” she adds.

Navarro says she grew up in Germany and finds the whole treatment of victims of the civil war unbelievable. She says in the northern European country this would be “absolutely inconceivable”.

“The fact that our relatives have been buried for so long in a place that we never decided for ourselves, next to the very person who instigated their murders, is something very painful. When I tell my German friends about it they can’t believe it,” she says.

“I’m not saying that these exhumations will bring justice, because there won’t be any, but they will bring a minimum of reparation to the victims,” she adds.

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Spain elections re-open deep wounds, as ETA terrorists run for office

EH Bildu, a pro-independence party, has 44 candidates who have been found guilty of terror-related crimes on its electoral lists for upcoming regional elections in Spain. Seven of them were convicted of murder.

The explosion lasted for just a few seconds.

It was March 1978, and workers at the Lémoniz nuclear power plant in the Basque Country, northern Spain, were finishing their shift when the blast happened. 

Minutes before, they had received a call from José Antonio Torre Altonaga, an electrician at the nuclear power plant.

He said he was no longer a regular worker and identified as a military spokesman for ETA, the terrorist group seeking an independent Basque Country.

Shortly afterwards, ETA detonated a bomb, placed in one of the reactors, killing two young workers and injuring 14 others. 

Torre Altonaga played a key role in the attack. He helped the terrorists access the building and showed them how to reach the generator.

The former terrorist, who served 20 years in prison, is now running as a candidate on the EH Bildu list in Munguía, a municipality in the Basque Country.

Although the terrorist group formally ended its use of violence in 2011, before disarming in 2018, EH Bildu has always been seen as ETA’s political voice.

The party, active in the north of Spain, has included 44 people convicted of belonging to, or collaborating with, ETA in its electoral lists for upcoming local and regional elections. 

Seven of them were convicted for murder in the same municipality where they were running as candidates. 

EH Bildu’s lists have shocked victims, forcing the seven candidates to withdraw from the electoral race.

The decision to withdraw came too late to take their names off the ballot papers, but the seven have promised not to take office if they are actually elected. 

But still, there are 37 people who were found guilty of terror-related crimes running in the lists for election.

“Several candidates even concurred with the name and nickname they had in ETA”, the victim’s associations have reported. This was the case of Torre Altagona, who was better known as “Medius”.

Now, a fierce debate is raging in Spain, forcing the Spanish prime minister to take a position on the issue. “There are things that may be legal, but not decent,” said Pedro Sánchez. 

The conservative Popular Party (PP), along with victims of ETA violence, have been pleading for a tightening of the law to avoid former ETA members from running on electoral lists.

The party went as far as to ask for EH Bildu to be criminalised, but their petition got a robust response from the Attorney General’s Office: “Bildu constitutes a democratic political formation. It has publicly condemned and still condemns terrorist violence.”

The party won’t be outlawed. 

Wounds are still open

As soon as Bildu’s electoral lists were made public, Daniel Portero, a victim of ETA violence and Popular Party MP in Madrid filed a complaint along with victims’ associations.

They wanted to see whether EH Bildu candidates had completely served their sentence. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has just closed the complaint stating that candidates have served their disqualification sentence.

This has left the victims in disbelief.

Portero lost his father, Luis, when he was 26-years-old. Luis was the chief prosecutor of the High Court of Justice of Andalusia, and was shot in the back by the terrorist group in 2000.

“I will never forget the day my father died”, he tells Euronews.

“I remember exactly everything I did from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. It seems like it’s burned into my memory.

“I will never be able to forget. Especially when Bildu is laughing at the victims and politicians keep bringing up the debate”, he adds.

Although experts confirm EH Bildu’s electoral lists are completely legal, as the former ETA members have served their sentences, they open an ethical debate.

Their candidacies are causing a lot of pain to victims.

This is why Daniel is struggling to believe in the legality of the lists. He argues they go against the 2002 Law on Parties. However, Spanish law establishes that even political ideas going against the constitutional system should have their space in politics.

These ideas are valid as long as they are not defended “by means of an activity that violates democratic principles or fundamental rights of citizens”.

“As a victim of ETA, I feel as if I were a Jew and the Nazis had returned to public life”, Daniel says.

“The question here is why the rule of law is doing nothing when a part of society is being offended and humiliated”, he adds.

He also believes EH Bildu’s parliamentary support to the Spanish government coalition, voting in favour of some of Pedro Sanchez’s proposals, is helping the Basque political group keep their electoral lists.

Legality vs. morality

Former ETA members have been running as candidates in the Basque Country for many years.

One of the most notorious was Juan Carlos Yoldi back in 1987, who ran for the presidency of the Basque regional government while he was still in prison.

The former ETA leader himself, José Antonio Urrutikoetxea, known as Josu Ternera, one of Interpol’s most wanted criminals, managed to be elected as a member of the Basque parliament.

“It’s not a legal problem, but a moral and ethical question. Truth is these electoral lists are a very serious offence for the victims” says Ludger Mees, history professor at the University of the Basque Country.

Despite this, Mees rejects the possibility of introducing legal obstacles to the party’s lists.

“Not so many years ago, when ETA was still murdering, we asked them to stop killing and become involved in parliamentary politics. We asked them to become a normal political party. Now that they did it, it seems that some people don’t like it”, he adds.

ETA’s victims, however, don’t think this is enough.

“They have many sympathisers who have never committed a single crime, they are the ones who should be running on their lists. What EH Bildu is doing right now is making fun of the victims”, Daniel says.

But would legal obstacles to political lists be a useful measure? The professor questions it.

“If we open the door to new conditions, we don’t know when we will be able to close it. Would we end up forbidding any candidacy we don’t like? It’s a very dangerous path full of undemocratic consequences”, he says.

And he throws a question into the air: didn’t we believe in reintegration?

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Sudan army says it will help foreigners escape the fighting

The Sudanese army said Saturday it was coordinating efforts to evacuate foreign citizens and diplomats from Sudan on military aircraft, as the bloody fighting that has engulfed the vast African nation entered its second week.

Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan said he would facilitate the evacuation of American, British, Chinese and French citizens and diplomats from Sudan after speaking with the leaders of several countries that had requested help. The prospect has vexed officials as most major airports have become battlegrounds and movement out of the capital, Khartoum, has proven intensely dangerous.

Burhan “agreed to provide the necessary assistance to secure such evacuations for various countries,” Sudan’s military said.

Mass rescues of foreign citizens

Questions have swirled over how the mass rescues of foreign citizens would unfold, with Sudan’s main international airport closed and millions of people sheltering indoors. As battles between the Sudanese army led by Burhan and a rival powerful paramilitary group rage in and around Khartoum, including in residential areas, foreign countries have struggled to repatriate their citizens — many trapped in their homes as food supplies dwindle.

The White House would not confirm the Sudanese military’s announcement. “We have made very clear to both sides that they are responsible for ensuring the protection of civilians and noncombatants,” the National Security Council said. On Friday, the U.S. said it had no plans for a government-coordinated evacuation of the estimated 16,000 American citizens trapped in Sudan.

Saudi Arabia announced the successful repatriation of some of its citizens on Saturday, sharing footage of Saudi nationals and other foreigners welcomed with chocolate and flowers as they stepped off an apparent evacuation ship at the Saudi port of Jeddah.

Officials did not elaborate on exactly how the rescue unfolded but Burhan said the Saudi diplomats and nationals had first travelled by land to Port Sudan, the country’s main seaport on the Red Sea. He said that Jordan’s diplomats would soon be evacuated in the same way. The port is in Sudan’s far east, some 840 kilometres (520 miles) from Khartoum.

In a security alert, the U.S. Embassy in Sudan said it had “incomplete information about significant convoys departing Khartoum travelling towards Port Sudan” and that the situation remained dangerous. “Travelling in any convoy is at your own risk,” it said.

With the U.S. focused on evacuating diplomats first, the Pentagon said it was moving additional troops and equipment to a Naval base in the tiny Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti to prepare for the effort.

Burhan told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel on Saturday that flights in and out of Khartoum remained risky because of the ongoing clashes. He claimed that the military had regained control over all the other airports in the country, except for one in the southwestern city of Nyala.

“We share the international community’s concern about foreign nationals,” he said, promising Sudan would provide “necessary airports and safe passageways” for foreigners trapped in the fighting, without elaborating.

Even as the warring sides said Friday they’d agreed to a cease-fire for the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, explosions and gunfire rang out across Khartoum on Saturday. Two cease-fire attempts earlier this week also rapidly collapsed. The turmoil has dealt a perhaps fatal blow to hopes for the country’s transition to a civilian-led democracy and raised concerns the chaos could draw in its neighbours, including Chad, Egypt and Libya.

Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, chief of the paramilitary group fighting the army, known as the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, claimed he would work toward “opening humanitarian corridors, to facilitate the movement of citizens and enable all countries to evacuate their nationals to safe places.”

We are committed to a complete cease-fire,” he told French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

But those on the ground painted a different picture Friday.

“The war has been continuous since day one. It has not stopped for one moment,” said Atiya Abdalla Atiya, secretary of the Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate, which monitors casualties. The clashes have killed over 400 people so far, according to the World Health Organization. The bombardments, gun battles and sniper fire in densely populated areas have hit civilian infrastructure, including many hospitals.

The international airport near the centre of the capital has come under heavy shelling as the paramilitary group, RSF, has tried to take control of the compound. In an apparent effort to oust the RSF fighters, the Sudanese army has pounded the airport with airstrikes, gutting at least one runway and leaving wrecked planes scattered on the tarmac. The full extent of damage at the airfield remains unclear.

The conflict has opened a dangerous new chapter in Sudan’s history, thrusting the country into uncertainty.

“No one can predict when and how this war will end,” Burhan told Al-Hadath. “I am currently in the command centre and will only leave it in a coffin.”

The current explosion of violence came after Burhan and Dagalo fell out over a recent internationally brokered deal with democracy activists that was meant to incorporate the RSF into the military and eventually lead to civilian rule.

The rival generals rose to power in the tumultuous aftermath of popular uprisings that led to the ouster of Sudan’s longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019. Two years later, they joined forces to seize power in a coup that ousted the civilian leaders.

Both the military and RSF have a long history of human rights abuses. The RSF was born out of the Janjaweed militias, which were accused of atrocities in crushing a rebellion in Sudan’s western Darfur region in the early 2000s.

Many Sudanese fear that despite the generals’ repeated promises, the violence will only escalate as tens of thousands of foreign citizens try to leave.

“We are sure both sides of fighting are more careful about foreign lives than the lives of Sudanese citizens,” Atiya said.

Other countries are believed to be making contingency plans to rescue thier citizens from Sudan. A Japanese transport plane left Japan on Friday, April 21. It will be on standby in Djibouti, ready to rescue citizens stranded in Sudan.


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