Geopolitics

As Anarchy Rules In Eastern Ukraine, Roma And Jews Targeted

In Sloviansk, masked men storm homes of Roma families and agitators blame the Jews.

Soldiers guarding Sloviansk's City Hall on April 21
Soldiers guarding Sloviansk's City Hall on April 21
Julia Smirnova

SLOVIANSK — Pavel is picking up shards of glass in front of his house in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. The windows are broken. There are bullet holes in the heavy metal door. He and his wife Natalia no longer dare spend the night here. Most of their eight children, 10 grandchildren and other relatives who lived in neighboring houses in this Roma community are gone.

Last Friday after dark, a dozen men came to their houses. Some of them were wearing camouflage uniforms, others civilian clothing and masks, recalls Pavel, who fears giving us his last name.

The men were armed, and fired their guns in the air, at the windows and door, and broke open the shutters. They shouted: "Give us your money, all the gold and drugs!" Pavel says. To leave no doubt they meant business, they shot the family dog.

Chaos reigns inside Natalia and Pavel’s home. In the bedroom, dresser drawers are upturned on the bed. The masked men had searched all the closets, looking for money. In the living room bed linens and crockery are strewn all over the place — these are the things Natalia sells at her market stand. The armed men took several boxes of the merchandise with them. Six other houses were also shot up and plundered, Pavel says.

"We’re frightened," says a daughter. "They threatened us, called us apes and brutes."

(On Thursday, news agencies reported shooting at roadblocks in Sloviansk, which has become a flashpoint in the showdown between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces.)

Over the weekend, most of the Roma from the neighboring houses went to stay with relatives in the area. But 29-year-old Roman Tcherepovski stayed here with his blind mother. Then on Tuesday evening there was another attack. Once again, there were men in camouflage uniforms. They broke open the door, fired their guns at the windows, and demanded money. Tcherepovski hid, but watched as they tried to shoot open the door of a neighboring house. By the fence lies a shell from a Makarov pistol.

For years, the Ukrainian police have been armed with Makarov pistols. But now it doesn’t make any sense to call the Sloviansk police. The city’s police station and the headquarters of the secret service are being occupied by supporters of the "Autonomous Republic of Donetsk" movement. They’re demanding a split from Ukraine and have taken over the city.

Mixed bag

Many of these men wear camouflage uniforms and carry machine guns and Makarov pistols that they took from the stocks of Ukrainian security forces. Some of the masked men in Sloviansk seem very professional, while others look as if they haven’t got a clue how to work the weapons they’re carrying. That frightens city residents even more.

The separatists claim they are fighting against the "fascists in Kiev." What they mean by that is mostly the nationalist Svoboda party and the Right Sector movement, but sometimes it includes the whole new government. What they don’t mention is that there are plenty of xenophobic people in their own ranks. Ruslan Mikeda, a man with a full beard guarding the occupied secret service headquarters, thinks it’s okay that Roma houses in Sloviansk are attacked.

"Residents come to us and complain about the gypsies," he says. "The gypsies are criminals and they deal in drugs." The police were routinely paid off by them, he adds. But now the militia has taken over the role of the police. "And our guys are serious — we want to clear the city of gypsies."

Mikeda, a former construction worker, says he isn’t sure what made him join the separatists. During the winter, he spent a couple of days on Maidan Square and signed up with the Right Sector for the day. "I hoped they’d give me weapons, but that didn’t work out," he says. "I wanted to go to war." Then he decided that Maidan power was in the hands of "the Jews," and looked for other simpler ways of getting his hands on some weapons. He shows his Facebook page, which is filled with calls for war and anarchy, and laced with anti-Semitism.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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