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Argentina's Landmark Conviction Of Dictator For 'Systematic' Baby Theft

CLARIN, LA NACION ( Argentina), EL PAIS (Spain), AP


BUENOS AIRES - Former Argentinean dictator Jorge Videla's landmark 50-year sentence for stealing babies from leftist prisoners was greeted Friday with a mix of closure and vindication by many in the South American nation who suffered through the so-called "dirty war" three decades ago.

The guilty convictions put perhaps the most poignant final marker on the military junta's war on leftist dissidents between 1976 and 1983. According to the Argentine daily Clarin, the Court found that former dictator had developed a "systematic program" to target dissident pregnant women: kidnapping them, and stealing their infants after they were born in clandestine maternity wards. Typically, the mothers were subsequently tortured and killed.

Argentina's last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, also was convicted, and sentenced to 15 years. Both men already were in prison for other human rights abuses.

Under the title "Argentina's Crimes', the Spanish publication El Pais explains the unique cruelty of the "dirty war" and the difficulty in seeking justice for what official records say are more than 13,000 deaths.

A big screen was installed outside the courthouse and a large crowd of people followed the trial and cheered when the sentences were read for Videla, 86, and Bignone, 84.

Nine other people, mostly former military and police officials, also were accused in the trial, which focused specifically on 34 baby thefts, though estimates are that as many as 500 babies were taken from their mothers.

An important driving force in the legal process was the group called "the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo", a human rights group whose evidence-gathering efforts were key to the trial. Witnesses included former U.S. diplomat Elliot Abrams. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. government also revealed little of what it knew as the junta was eliminating opponents.

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Why Crimea Is Proving So Hard For Russia To Defend

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, claiming Monday that a missile Friday killed the head of Russia's Black Sea fleet at the headquarters in Sevastopol. And Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in smoke after a Ukrainian missile strike.​

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram on Monday.

Responding to reports of multiple missiles strikes this month on Crimea, Russian authorities say that all the missiles were intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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