Ukraine Fighting, Afghanistan Aid, Bye-Bye Mullet

Afghanistan landslide victims receive aid.
Afghanistan landslide victims receive aid.

Ukrainian troops have launched a new offensive against pro-Russian militants in the eastern city of Sloviansk, with reports of shootings at rebel-held checkpoints outside the city, forcing them to retreat deeper into the town’s center. At least one woman was killed and another 11 pro-Russian militants were reported injured in the attack, according to RT. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said there were also eight troops injured but said the number of possible casualties was “being double-checked.”

The latest events come after a weekend of high tension following the deaths of at least 38 in an Odessa fire after clashes between pro-Ukrainian government and pro-Russian groups Friday. Both sides were responsibility or the tragedy, the BBC reports. Yesterday, pro-Russian militants stormed the city’s police station and freed 67 prisoners with no resistance from police officers.

German tabloid Bild claims that FBI and CIA agents are advising the government in Kiev on its crackdown of separatists. Read more in English from The Moscow Times.

Victims received aid Sunday after a landslide killed at least 2,100 people in northern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province Friday.

“If somebody had told me that I would be the leader to bring down communism ... I never would have believed them,” former Polish President Lech Walesa tells the BBC. “That is why I am the happiest man in the whole galaxy,” he said, 25 years after bringing democracy to Poland.

An offensive from South Sudanese troops to retake the rebel-held oil-rich town of Bentiu faltered after soldiers came under heavy gunfire, the BBC reports. Although the army had succeeded to enter the town, they were reportedly forced into retreat and it’s unclear who is now in control of Bentiu. This comes after the country’s Defense Minister announcement yesterday that government forces had retaken the rebel stronghold of Nasir. Read more from Sudan Tribune.

As The Economic Observer’s Fu Ting writes, Chinese men of a certain age are so busy trying to become wealthy that they are unkempt unfashionable. “Naturally, it also left me feeling like crying for Chinese women,” the journalist writes. “Perhaps it also explains why so many mature Chinese wives, disgusted by their bedroom mates, are behaving like young groupies with those South Korean male television series stars who look so exquisitely groomed and fashionable. One rich Chinese lady even went as far as taking a whole page of the Beijing News to wish happy birthday to Kim Soo-Hyun, the leading South Korean actor of the successful series You Who Came From The Stars.” Read the full article, The Fashion Education Of The Chinese Male.


Panama Vice President Carlos Varela won yesterday’s presidential election and pledged to establish a government of “equity and transparency,” newspaper Telemetro reports. Described by AP as a “free-market conservative,” Varela defeated outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli’s hand-picked successor with an estimated 39% of the vote, against 32%, with another candidate finishing third in the race. Varela will take office July 1.

A woman who has been leading the protest movement in Nigeria for the liberation of abducted schoolgirls has been detained by order of the Nigerian president’s wife, the BBC reports activists as saying.

Divers searching the sunken South Korean ferry recovered dozens of bodies over the weekend, taking the official death toll to 259 as they explored most of the compartments where they expected to find victims, Yonhap news agency reports. Search teams will then focus on the ship’s lobbies, staircases, shops, arcades and bathrooms to find the remaining 43 people. Meanwhile, 11 people are missing in Hong Kong after a cargo vessel sank following a collision with a container ship. Read more from the South China Morning Post.

The trial of Oscar Pistorius resumed this morning after a two-week break in the South African capital of Pretoria. The defense called a new witness in an effort to prove that the athlete believed he was targeting an intruder when he shot his girlfriend through their bathroom door, SAPA news agency reports. Follow live updates of the trial on The Guardian’s website.

British tennis champ Elena Baltacha has died of liver cancer at age 30.

A Canadian family who had decided to live one year like it was 1986 are back to the present. Read the dad’s reaction as his vintage year ended.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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