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Two decades after independence, violent discord still prevalent in #Ukraine

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Realities of modern political strife in some countries often resemble an action movie. Even ordinary journalistic activity can become a struggle for life itself. In eastern Europe, which has witnessed several revolutions, journalists are still being persecuted or even assassinated.

One example is Ukraine, which gained independence in 1991 and is still shaping its own political culture. By virtue of its own sovereignty, Ukraine gained the right to different political views. The Communist Party was deprived of a monopoly but this does not guarantee that everyone is free to express their own views. In many parts of the world, attitudes to the opposition is an indicator of civilization and development. But, in a country where law enforcement agencies fail to perform their direct functions, a space can develop for “street censors” who, with no legal grounds, determine the rules themselves by use of force.

Persecution of opposition journalists in Ukraine has become almost a tradition. The murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000 is the best-known example. He was in opposition to then President Leonid Kuchma. However, 20 years and two revolutions later, as well as changes of the presidents and ministers, some Ukrainian journalists, activists and politicians are still being persecuted for their activities.

The absence of clear law enforcement agencies allows the authorities to deal with political opponents by force, knowing that they will avoid responsibility. This can lead to quite tragic consequences.

In 2018, Kateryna Gandziuk, an activist, politician and public figure, who was in conflict with some local authorities in the city of Kherson, was attacked.  Attackers splashed her with sulfuric acid and she died from severe burns three months later. The case received widespread publicity and provoked indignation in many parts of the country. Investigators are still investigating her murder, but activists say the case is being bungled.

Another case is that of an activist in Kharkiv who was beaten on the head with baseball bats. The victim survived, but experienced multiple injuries. His photo from the hospital with a bloodied face, swollen eyes and bandaged head circulated throughout Ukraine (pictured, below).

Prior to this incident, the victim told about threats he had received from representatives of the local National Corps Party branch who had ideological differences with the Sharii’s Party, and filed a statement with the police.

The head of the Kharkiv National Corps branch reportedly spoke of launching a “safari”, in other words, going after party followers. It is interesting to note that the followers of this political force are systematically persecuted and attacked.

In Mykolaiv, representatives of the “National Corps” laid a coffin near the Sharii Party office to intimidate the party members.

In Zhytomyr, people said to be connected to the local National Corps reportedly entered the Sharii’s Party office and beat Serhii Nikulin, the head of the local Sharii’s Party branch. The police initiated a criminal case on the grounds of criminal damage and minor injuries.

The chairperson of the “National Corps” Party, Andrii Biletskyi, has repeatedly spoke negatively about the Sharii’s Party and allegedly stated in an interview that its followers should be attacked.

Despite such comments the law enforcement agencies have failed to act.

Forces with very different ideological focuses exist in the Ukrainian political space, of course.

However, instead of persuading voters, physical pressure, threats, intimidation are the preferred choice of action. Each country shapes its political culture in the form used by political forces competing for power. European values, which Ukraine seeks to integrate, include pluralism of opinion and expression of different political views.

Strife between political forces is best conducted through dialogue but where this is replaced with a rule of force, with no proper response from the public agencies, the political system can fall into anarchy, where people, such as journalists, are attacked solely for ideological beliefs. In such a climate, politics becomes an arena of violence and intimidation, leading to permanent civil opposition.

A legal framework is the sole guarantee of national stability and development. Law enforcement agencies are called upon to protect law and order and should act proactively to prevent potentially tragic consequences.

However, current trends in Ukraine fall well short of the nationwide consensus that would allow everyone, including the media, to enjoy guaranteed rights and responsibilities.

Belgium

Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime

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Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.

The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.

In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.

According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”

Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.

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Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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coronavirus

Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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