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Are Femen Activists Undermining Their Own Cause?

LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR, 20 MINUTES (France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS –Eight members of the feminist Ukrainian group FEMEN celebrated Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement this week by disrobing inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The bare-breasted activists rang the cathedral's new bells -- currently exposed in the middle of the nave -- with sticks, before getting carried out by the cathedral’s security and visitors (see video below). The bodies of the protestors were painted with slogans hailing Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the recent passage in Parliament of a law allowing gay marriage in France.

By now, such images, um... barely ... make news, after months of similarly provocative demonstrations around the world to promote the rights of women and gays have often led to clashes both with police and their political opponents.

But this time, may have been different. The loudest criticism seemed to come from the French left, as Paris’ openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, slammed FEMEN’s happening: “I disapprove of an act that turns the beautiful fight for sexual equality into a caricature, needlessly shocking many believers,” Delanoë was quoted as saying by France's Le Nouvel Observateur.

Eloïse Bouton, a French representative of FEMEN, justified the action: “We chose this place because it symbolizes the oppression on women. We’re not here to please everyone we want to be visible in the news. Men are everywhere in the media landscape, they have an opinion on everything. Women need to speak up for what they stand for,” Bouton told daily 20 Minutes.

A picture from the FemenFrance official feed:

— FemenFrance Officiel (@Femen_France) 12 février 2013
A fiery tweet in reaction to the event:

— Olivia13 (@Prav13Olivia) 12 février 2013
Translation: "I won't shed a tear if Notre-Dame's bells fall and squish those harpies"

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Nuclear Card And Firing Squads: Lukashenko's Long Game To Retain Power

A few weeks after an explosion at a military field in Belarus, Vladimir Putin announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. There is a connection, even if Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is walking a tight rope of domestic control and keeping Putin satisfied.

Image of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko welcoming Russian President Vladimir Putin in his arms.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko welcoming his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at Minsk National Airport.

Igar Ilyash

-Analysis-

Back on the afternoon of February 26, local Belarus media reported explosions at the military airfield in Machulishchy, near Minsk, and increased activity of military services. Soon after, the BYPOL association, created by former security forces to fight the regime of Alexander Lukashenko,, announced that Belarusian partisans had used drones to attack a Russian A-50U long-range radar detection aircraft.

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Neither Minsk nor Moscow acknowledged that such a valuable aircraft had been disabled. However, a few days later, the A-50U left the territory of Belarus for repairs.

The day after the explosions, Lukashenko convened a meeting of the security forces. He looked agitated, demanding "the strictest discipline" and spoke vaguely about some "internal events" and attempts to "stir up" the situation in Belarus. The Belarusian authorities publicly acknowledged the sabotage only on March 7.

That same day, Lukashenko accused the Ukrainian special services of organizing the terrorist attack in Machulishchy. "Well, the challenge has been met," he declared, before quickly clarifying that he did not intend to use the incident to draw Belarus into war. "If you think that throwing this challenge will drag us into a war that is already going on all over Europe, you are mistaken."

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