The World Today for June 27, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

The Disappeared

RUSSIA/ UKRAINE

Russian lawmaker Oleg Morozov of the pro-government United Russia political party, the largest in the country, was recently sharing his thoughts on a Rossiya-1 state television talk show. Speaking to pro-Kremlin TV host Olga Skabeyeva, he asked: what if Russian agents kidnapped a NATO country defense minister while they were visiting Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy? The minister would wake up, shocked, in Moscow.

“You mean we abduct them?” Skabeyeva responded, according to Reuters.

“Yes,” Morozov answered. “And then we would sort out who gave which order for what, who is responsible for what exactly. It is not such a mythical picture … There are new rules in the world now. Let all those war ministers gathering in Kyiv think a little about what it would be like to wake up in Moscow.”

This comical political rhetoric alludes to but also elides the horrific recent history of kidnappings in the Russo-Ukrainian War. “All over Ukraine, people are missing, forcing families to become detectives,” went the headline of a Washington Post story about Ukrainians seeking to solve the fates of around 9,000 missing loved ones who have disappeared since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. Authorities are simultaneously investigating 13,000 alleged war crimes in the same period.

Sometimes the kidnappings are designed to intimidate Ukrainians living in a war zone, as France 24 explained, referring to Ukrainians who were detained, abused and tortured because they spoke out against Russian occupation. Russian forces have also made a point to “disappear” Ukrainian local officials, like mayors, who might organize resistance movements, Vox noted.

But Britain recently imposed further sanctions on Russia to signal disapproval over Russian forces abducting Ukrainian children and giving them to Russian families, the Guardian reported. The sanctions include Maria Lvova-Belova, a Putin ally who is the Russian children’s rights commissioner. She stands accused of running a state-sanctioned abduction program. Ukrainian officials claim that Lvova-Belova has masterminded the kidnappings of more than 2,000 children.

Russia has also taken other measures to absorb Ukrainians and wipe out their identities. As the Daily Beast noted, Russian occupiers of the Ukrainian city of Kherson recently decreed that all children born in the region since the invasion started would automatically be considered citizens of Russia. These measures are common throughout history when powerful nationalist forces seek to erase communities who don’t fit in with their plans, wrote University of South Carolina Law Professor Marcia Zug in the Conversation.

What’s inconvenient for them, though: Just because people disappear doesn’t mean they will be forgotten.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Blinking

ECUADOR

Ecuador lifted a state of emergency in six provinces over the weekend amid an Indigenous-led nationwide strike that has blocked the country’s capital from receiving food and other supplies, the Associated Press reported.

President Guillermo Lasso ended the state of emergency following a Saturday meeting between government officials and Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

Following the meeting, officials said they would establish a commission to broker talks to end the strike.

The strike began two weeks ago after Indigenous leaders demanded a cut in gasoline prices, price controls on agricultural products and a larger budget for education. The protests have blocked roads in Quito, which has caused food and fuel shortages in the capital.

At least six people have died and hundreds have been injured amid clashes with security forces, according to Reuters. Lasso has accused Indigenous leaders of staging a coup.

The president of the Indigenous confederation, Leonidas Iza, said the strike would not end until all demands had been met. But he added that the demonstrators will rest for the weekend and asked that corridors be opened in the interprovincial border areas to allow food to arrive in Quito.

Meanwhile, the decision to end the emergency measures came as opposition lawmakers from the Union for Hope party requested the removal of Lasso over his decision to impose the state of emergency.

It will take the votes of at least 92 lawmakers to remove Lasso. The Union for Hope has only 47 seats.

Killing the Messenger

ISRAEL/ WEST BANK & GAZA

Israeli soldiers fired the shots that killed veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh last month, found a probe by the United Nations, Haaretz reported over the weekend.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it had conducted its own “monitoring” of the incident – refraining from using the word “investigation” – and had examined photos and videos, visited the scene of the shooting and interviewed witnesses.

The organization determined that the shots that killed the Al Jazeera journalist and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi were fired by Israeli soldiers, “not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians.”

Abu Akleh was killed in May during an Israeli raid in the West Bank as, according to the Israeli military, Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen exchanged fire. Her death sparked international outrage.

Palestinian officials said their investigation found that the journalist’s death was the result of a bullet used by Israel’s armed forces. They accused Israel of “deliberate murder.”

Israel denied the allegations. The Israeli Defense Force insisted the journalist “was not intentionally shot by an IDF soldier and that it is not possible to determine whether she was killed by a Palestinian gunman shooting indiscriminately in her area or inadvertently by an IDF soldier.”

The IDF maintained that it was committed to investigating Abu Akleh’s death and urged the Palestinian authorities to share access to the bullet that killed her.

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GERMANY

German lawmakers voted over the weekend to abolish a Nazi-era law that banned the advertisement of abortion services, a measure that had effectively criminalized the act of doctors providing information about the procedure, the New York Times reported.

The vote came after years of deliberations over the law, the first in Europe to ban the transmission of information about the procedure.

Lawmakers in Germany’s new governing coalition led by the central-left Social Democratic Party voted to repeal the law. The conservative opposition Christian Democratic Party and the far-right Alternative for Germany voted against it.

Pro-choice activists and medical professionals welcomed the move, saying it will make it easier for women to find an abortion provider – a process that had been difficult in the past. Critics said it would result in a spike in abortions.

Abortion is legal in Germany until the 12th week of pregnancy with a mandatory counseling session but medical practitioners had been forbidden from advertising – or providing – any information about the procedure.

The issue gained attention in 2017 when Kristina Hänel, a general practitioner in the town of Giessen, posted information about the procedure on her website. A court deemed her post as an advertisement and fined her $6,300. The case ended up in Germany’s highest court.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe upheld the law but Hänel’s case prompted calls to repeal the legislation. Germany’s previous conservative government later changed the law to allow doctors to indicate whether they offered abortions. The ban on advertising remained.

Meanwhile, criminal complaints and legal proceedings against medical practitioners continued, until now.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • The Group of Seven major economies will restrict gold imports from Russia, the latest in a series of penalties aimed at further isolating Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine, CBS News reported. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday as the leaders hold their annual summit.
  • Russian forces took complete control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday, according to both sides, marking Kyiv’s largest combat loss in more than a month after weeks of some of the war’s deadliest fighting, Reuters noted. Meanwhile, Russia attacked Kyiv early Sunday, striking at least two residential buildings, while Russian forces pushed to solidify their gains in the country’s east, the Associated Press added.
  • Russia will transfer nuclear-capable short-range missile systems to its ally Belarus in the coming months, the BBC wrote. The Iskander-M systems, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “can fire ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear types.” The weapons have a range of 310 miles.

DISCOVERIES

The Sexacentennial Mystery

It took more than 600 years but scientists finally discovered the origins of the Black Death, CBS News reported.

In a new study, researchers pinpointed the source of the pandemic in a region in Central Asia after analyzing DNA from remains at an ancient burial site.

The Black Death eradicated 30 percent to 60 percent of the population of Europe from 1346 to 1353. Scholars have been debating the source for years until a research team discovered a clue in an 1890 work describing an ancient burial site in what is now northern Kyrgyzstan.

The team came across a surge in burials between 1338 and 1339 with a number of tombstones describing the cause of death as “pestilence.”

“When you have one or two years with excess mortality it means that something funny was going on there,” co-author Philip Slavin said in a statement.

Slavin and his colleagues went to the burial site to extract genetic material from the teeth of seven people buried there. Researchers explained that teeth contain blood vessels, which could provide them with evidence that blood-borne pathogens were responsible for the inhabitants’ demise.

The findings showed that the pathogen was Yersinia pestis, commonly known as the plague – and the specific pathogen responsible for the 14th-century pandemic.

The authors acknowledged that the data sample is very small but other scientists said the research methods could be used to resolve other ancient scientific mysteries.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 543,599,476

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,329,060

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,648,128,355

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 86,967,639 (+0.02%)
  2. India: 43,407,046 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 32,023,166 (+0.00%)**
  4. France: 30,714,200 (+0.00%)**
  5. Germany: 27,771,911 (+0.00%)
  6. UK: 22,786,805 (+0.00%)**
  7. South Korea: 18,329,448 (+0.02%)
  8. Russia: 18,234,242 (+0.27%)
  9. Italy: 18,150,010 (+0.00%)**
  10. Turkey: 15,085,742 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

Correction: In Friday’s UKRAINE, BRIEFLY section, we said that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were unanimously accepted as EU candidates by the European Parliament. It is in fact only Ukraine and Moldova that were accepted as candidates. EU lawmakers said Georgia can become a candidate once it completes the necessary reforms. We apologize for the error.

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