The World Today for July 18, 2022

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CHECHNYA

The Russian republic of Chechnya is intimately intertwined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Having battled Russian forces in an unsuccessful bid for independence in the 1990s, Chechens know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Moscow’s military might. But from that experience, they also know how to dole out punishment against Russian forces.

At present, Chechens are fighting on both sides of the Russo-Ukrainian War, reported the Washington Post. Some are helping Ukraine resist Russia, citing their experiences fighting against Kremlin leaders’ imperial designs. These people are especially courageous, argued France 24, because they face imprisonment and torture if they fall into the hands of Russian soldiers or Chechen militia units allied with Russia.

Meanwhile, many Chechen fighters from the Muslim-majority region in the Caucasus Mountains are part of a so-called shadow mobilization to bolster the Russian army’s flagging manpower, Radio Free Europe explained. The Caucasus, incidentally, has Russia’s lowest living standards and income levels.

Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who once fought against Russia as a separatist guerilla, has asked the Russian military to request more Chechen troops to fight in Ukraine to “get even with our blood enemies,” added Newsweek.

Despite the attraction of a military paycheck, Chechen officials seeking to fill quotas or demonstrate loyalty to Putin have also allegedly used “intimidation, blackmail, or threats of torture and kidnapping” to compel men to “volunteer” for military service, the Moscow Times wrote.

And as the fighting rages, other parallels are developing between Chechnya and Ukraine. “Images of the devastated city of Mariupol are eerily reminiscent of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, which was leveled by Russian forces in a brutal war that went through two phases in the mid-1990s and the early 2000s,” wrote CNN.

Putin’s plan for Ukraine is similar to what he has created in Chechnya, argued Armenia-based journalist Neil Hauser in the Atlantic. The Russian president wants to demolish cities to demonstrate Russian power and suzerainty, install dependable local rulers like Kadyrov and create an atmosphere of fear that destroys civil society and the political landscape, making people easier to rule.

Researchers at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, also believe that the conflicts in Ukraine and Chechnya echoed one another. High levels of civilian deaths, war crimes and propaganda wars marked both wars, they added.

These two conflicts may have many parallels. But the ending to the conflict in Ukraine has yet to be written.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Too Big To Fail

ITALY

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned this week, plunging Europe’s third largest economy into instability as it struggles with rising inflation and the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Draghi, the former chief of the European Central Bank, said he will step down amid cracks in his governing coalition over how to respond to the situation in Ukraine and the high inflation.

His decision came after his coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, boycotted a confidence vote on a wide-ranging policy package aimed at lowering inflation and battling rising energy costs, CNBC noted.

Following his announcement, the Democratic Party and other smaller center-left groups pleaded with Draghi to assemble a new government, while President Sergio Mattarella refused to accept his resignation.

The spotlight is now on Draghi, who is set to address parliament on Wednesday about his departure and probable future moves.

Analysts cautioned that a protracted period of uncertainty or a new, weakened prime minister might stymie Italy’s efforts to combat rising inflation. The Italian economy is already stagnating following a remarkable recovery from the pandemic-induced recession last year.

Observers noted that a snap poll is unlikely anytime soon because after the summer break, lawmakers will be occupied with approving the national budget. Others opined that Draghi could also remain in office – with or without the same coalition partners – until next year’s scheduled general elections.

Meanwhile, the recent crisis has seen rising support for the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which is not part of the coalition. Party chief Giorgia Meloni has urged members of Draghi’s coalition – the right-wing League and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – to join her call for immediate elections.

No Quarter

HAITI

Gang wars in Haiti have trapped thousands of people in a slum in the capital without food and water even as the Caribbean nation reels from a fuel shortage, the Guardian reported Saturday.

Officials said fighting in Port-au-Prince’s notorious Cité Soleil slum has left at least 89 dead and around 100 wounded. Global medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières urged criminal groups to allow aid to enter the district and to spare civilians.

About 20,000 people have fled their homes since May because of gang warfare, according to the United Nations.

Human rights groups described the situation in the streets as “a real battlefield,” as rival militias – some tacitly supported by the government and security forces – jostle for territory.

Haiti has seen months of violent social unrest over fuel shortages: The rising violence has prompted the closure of petrol stations across the country. Because of a lack of electrical infrastructure, many Haitians rely on petrol to fuel generators that power homes and businesses.

The recent gang wars and energy shortages have added to the list of woes plaguing the desperate Caribbean nation.

Earlier this month, Haiti commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Last August, a powerful earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed or damaged 135,000 buildings in the country’s rural south.

A First One

PANAMA

Thousands of Panamanians took to the streets across the country this week to protest rising fuel prices and government corruption, the first time inflation has become a problem in the wealthy Central American nation, the Associated Press reported.

Indigenous groups, workers’ and teachers’ unions marched across a number of cities and brought traffic to a standstill on the Pan-American Highway – a network of highways connecting North and South America.

President Laurentino Cortizo vowed to extend a freeze on gasoline prices to all Panamanians rather than just the public transport system. The president acknowledged the situation and blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the Ukraine conflict for the price surge.

But demonstrators said that Cortizo’s measures are not enough while lamenting the rising price of food and other basic goods.

Panama has a very steady service-based economy that uses the US dollar as its national currency. Inflation has essentially been a non-issue in recent years as a result but economists have now estimated it at four percent.

Still, the figure is considerably below that of other countries in the region, such as Mexico, where inflation is hovering around eight percent.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russia has lost more than 30 percent of its ground combat efficiency in Ukraine but military concerns will not lead to regime change in Russia, according to Britain’s senior military official, USA Today reported.
  • Early Sunday, Russian missiles struck industrial districts of Mykolaiv, which has emerged as a significant focus for Russia as it prepares to march into Odesa from eastern territories under its control, the Washington Post wrote. Russia also appeared to be resuming its ground attack in southern and eastern Ukraine, following what observers described as a regrouping period for forces.
  • Finance ministers from the Group of 20 industrialized nations met in Indonesia on Saturday but failed to reach an agreement on the United States’ plan to control the price of Russian oil, according to the New York Times.

DISCOVERIES

The King’s Stone

British archaeologists recently began excavating a prehistoric burial site that has long been associated with the legendary King Arthur, CNN reported.

This is the first time researchers have excavated “Arthur’s Stone,” a 5,000-year-old Neolithic chambered tomb located in the West Midlands of England, near the Welsh border.

The ancient monument consists of a large capstone held up by a number of upright stones and is considered an important part of Britain’s history, according to project lead Julian Thomas.

He said it was used as a burial place for human corpses, which were left to decompose in the chamber and later rearranged when only bones were left. He added, however, that the chamber was empty, which suggests it might have been disturbed in early modern times.

Still, Thomas said the ruins are shrouded in mystery and he hopes the excavations can shed more light on Britain’s early inhabitants.

He explained that the site was built during a critical time in Britain’s history when people from continental Europe began arriving on the island. It was also the time inhabitants began domesticating plants and animals, as well as creating pottery and stone tools.

But aside from its historical significance, the site continues to be linked to the mythical king and his exploits, despite a lack of historical evidence.

For example, in one legend, Arthur slew a giant who fell backward onto the capstone of the tomb, breaking it in two.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 562,443,636 (+1.27%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,369,529 (+0.29%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,829,603,509 (+0.50%)

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

  1. US: 89,542,107 (+1.07%)
  2. India: 43,767,534 (+0.29%)
  3. Brazil: 33,301,118 (+1.23%)
  4. France: 32,881,809 (+1.74%)
  5. Germany: 29,692,989 (+2.30%)
  6. UK: 23,160,760 (+0.31%)
  7. Italy: 20,145,859 (+3.63%)
  8. South Korea: 18,788,056 (+1.42%)
  9. Russia: 18,220,633 (+0.15%)
  10. Turkey: 15,297,539 (+0.77%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days

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