Russia Found Guilty Of Human Rights Violation In Georgia War

Russia Found Guilty Of Human Rights Violation In Georgia War

In a landmark verdict, the European Court of Human Rights has found Russia guilty of Human Rights violation in Georgia in 2008. In that light, let’s look at what happened there as well as several wars Russia has been engaged in with former Soviet territories.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Claim
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently found Russia guilty of human rights violations during its 2008 war with Georgia. It was found guilty of civilian killings, property destruction, torturing prisoners of war, etc.

2008 Russia-Georgia War
All regions involved are former parts of the Soviet Union. Also, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are officially part of Georgia but consider themselves autonomous.

  • 2006: Georgia publicly accused Russia of supporting the two regions’ separatism.
  • August 2008: Georgia launched an attack on South Ossetian to “neutralize separatist positions”. The attack came after months of clashes between the two.
  • Russia immediately launched an attack on Georgia – reached within 30km of Tbilisi (Georgian capital).

The war, lasting 5 days, saw more than being 228 Georgian civilians killed. In its report, the European Union (EU) also found Russia guilty of ‘long history of provocation‘ and ‘disproportionate reaction’.

Russia has been involved in conflicts with several nations previously being part of the Soviet Union. The major such wars are as follows.

First Chechnya War
Chechnya is a Muslim majority region, which declared independence from Russia after the Soviet breakdown.

  • 1994: Chechens under Akhmad Kadyrov declared jihad (holy war) on Russia after it invaded Chechnya against separatist forces.
  • 1996: Russia retreated, making Chechnya practically independent.

Second Chechnya War

  • Islamic extremism increased in the region – Akhmad Kadyrov switched to the Russian side.
  • 1999: Russia launched an attack after Chechen rebels allegedly killed 300+ people in bombing attacks inside Russia.
  • Such guerilla attacks continued, but Russia eventually won in 2009 and gained control of Chechnya.

Ukraine Crisis

  • February 2014: Pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown after pro-West protests broke in the nation.
  • Russia soon annexed Crimea (belonging to Ukraine) – part of re-establishing authority and partly due to its expansionism.
  • 13,000 people were killed, out of which 3,300 were civilians as per 2019 UN report.

Read about Russia’s relationship with Germany here.

Curiopedia
  • The Russo-Georgian War was regarded as the first European war of the 21st century. Since the war, Russia has occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the ceasefire agreement of August 2008.
  • The Rose Revolution was a change of power in Georgia in November 2003. The revolution was brought about by widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections and culminated in the ousting of President Eduard Shevardnadze, which marked the end of the Soviet era of leadership in the country.
  • The Battle of Tskhinvali was a battle for the city of Tskhinvali, capital of the breakaway state of South Ossetia. It was the only major battle in the Russo-Georgian War.

Putin Signs Bill Granting Lifetime Immunity To Former Presidents

Putin Signs Bill Granting Lifetime Immunity To Former Presidents

As Russian President Putin has made himself immune from prosecution for lifetime, let us look at the new provision and its implications.

Crux of the Matter

Permanent Immunity To Presidents
Russia President Vladimir Putin has signed new legislation that grants lifetime immunity to former presidents after they leave the post. It does so by making former Presidents members of the Senate for a lifetime.

What’s More To It?

  • Also protects their families from prosecution for crimes of their entire lifetime.
  • Exempted from police investigations and arrests.
  • Previously, former Presidents were immune to prosecution only for the crimes done while in office.
  • Immunity can now be revoked only in serious cases like treason and requires an overwhelming majority of the upper House, which has been called ‘impossible’ by analysts.

The new law is a part of constitutional amendments recently brought by Putin. One major Amendment allows Putin to continue as the President till 2036, who would have been otherwise required to leave in 2024.

One more Bill is awaiting Putin’s signature, which would make information of employees of “judicial system, law enforcement, and regulatory and military bodies” confidential. The move came 1 day after opposition leader Alexei Navalny claimed to have “tricked” an agent into admitting that the Government had tried to poison him.

Navalny, Putin’s staunchest critic, was poisoned in August allegedly by Russian agents. Navalny later revealed the agent’s number, which would now be illegal according to the new provision.

Immunity To President In India

  • Article 361 of the Constitution says that the President “shall not be answerable to any court” for exercising “powers and duties of his office”.
  • The President is also immune from criminal proceedings and arrests during his/her office.
  • However, she/he is impeachable under Article 61, which has to be preferred by either House of the Parliament.

Curiopedia
  • A law, first adopted in 2012, allows Russian authorities to label foreign-funded NGOs engaged in political activity “foreign agents“, a term that carries negative Soviet-era connotations. Despite the backlash, the bill was passed in the upper house with an overwhelming majority.
  • A duma is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions. The term comes from the Russian verb ‘dumat’ meaning “to think” or “to consider”. Since 1993, the lower house has also been known as the state duma.
  • Russian writer Sergei Kalenik began an online comic series in 2011 named “Superputin” – in which the Russian President saves his nation by judo-chopping terrorists. Putin is depicted as a superhero who fights the twin evils of public protest and terrorism.

Belarus Presidency On The Path Of Russia?

Belarus Presidency On The Path Of Russia?

With the recent elections in Belarus being declared by many as “rigged“, the country took a step towards matching the Russian elections, described in equal terms at the international level.

Crux of the Matter

Recent “Victory”
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus recently won the Presidential elections, with more than 80% of votes going in his favour. Lukashenko has been the President since 1994, and was described by the former US President George Bush as the “last dictator in Europe”.

Opposition And Rigging
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya became the main candidate against Lukashenko after the other two opponents had their candidacies rejected. The first, Viktor Babariko, was arrested, while the other candidate Valery Tsepkalo fled to Russia fearing action by Lukashenko. In his statement, Lukashenko claimed that people supporting the rallies of Tikhanovskaya would be treated as terrorists.

After the results, the elections were declared “rigged” by most of the opposition leaders and experts. Tikhanovskaya fled the country, citing threat to her whole family as the reason for the escape.

About Lukashenko
After becoming the President in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko dismantled the parliament in 1996 and reappointed it in 2000 with his “handpicked” members. In 2004, he removed the limit of “two-terms” on Presidents.

All elections since Lukashenko came into power have been declared unfair and rigged by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and several sanctions have been levied on him by the UN, the US and several other powers over human rights violations and unfair elections.

Covid-19 Dealing
Lukashenko is among the leaders who have chosen ‘unusual’ measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. No lockdown was imposed in the country, with Lukashenko claiming instead that the virus can be cured by “sauna and vodka”.

On The Russian Path?
In July, 2020, Russia passed a referendum enabling Vladimir Putin to continue his reign as the President till 2036. The amendment allows him the chance to contest in Presidential elections of 2024 and 2030. The referendum was supported by over 78% of the Russian voters, while the opposition leaders claimed that the elections were rigged and unfair.

The referendum also banned same-sex marriages in Russia, with Putin, who associates himself with the Russian Orthodox Church, declaring that gay marriage wouldn’t be allowed as long as “he is in the Kremlin”.

A Short History Of The Nation

  • Belarus was under the rule of several countries before World War I.
  • 1918: It was declared as the independent Belarusian National Republic.
  • 1919: Russia annexed it.
  • 1922: Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) became the founding member of the USSR.
  • 1930s: More than 100,000 people executed in Belarus by orders of Joseph Stalin, with several thousands being sent to forced labour camps.
  • 1941: Nazi Germany invaded Belarus and killed more than 1 million people, eliminating most of the Jews in the region.
  • 1945: Most of Belarus was merged into the Soviet Union after World War II ended.
  • 1986: More than 20% of agricultural land in Belarus was “contaminated” by the Chernobyl explosion in neighboring Ukraine.
  • 1991: Belarus declared independence as the Soviet Union was dissolved.
  • 1994: Alexander Lukashenko became the President.


Relationship With Russia

  • Belarus and Russia have shared a cordial relationship since the independence of the former.
  • 2002: First conflict between the two was observed when Belarus rejected the Russian proposal of a union.
  • 2010: A tussle over the supply of oil and electricity from Russia has been going since 2010.
  • January 2020: Lukashenko accused Putin of attempting to merge Belarus back into Russia. In return, Russia withdrew its oil subsidies to Belarus.
  • July 2020: Belarus got 33 “private military contractors” of Russia arrested on the charges of inciting riots. Russia declared that the contractors were present there only due to missing a connecting flight back to their country, and warned it of “grave consequences”.
Curiopedia
  • Little Russia is a geographical and historical term used to describe the modern-day territories of Belarus and Ukraine. The term was first used by Galician ruler Bolesław-Jerzy II in 1335.)
  • The Pahonia is the historical coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was also the official emblem of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918 and of the Republic of Belarus from 1991 to 1995. On May 14, 2007 the Pahonia was declared cultural heritage of Belarus.
  • The cultural heritage of Belarus includes both material and immaterial assets, in accordance with the Law on Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Belarus. In 2007 a total of 4,811 objects of heritage were listed.

Vaccine Claims By Russia – How True Are They?

Vaccine Claims By Russia -  How True Are They?

Russia made claims of the first Covid-19 vaccine recently, though the fact was proved otherwise. With allegations of hacking also coming, the incident added to Russia’s history of hacking and interference.

Crux of the Matter

Russian Vaccine Claims
Russia recently claimed success in finding the Covid-19 vaccine and declared it the “first vaccine” of Coronavirus in the world.

Sechenov University has successfully completed tests on volunteers of the world’s first vaccine against Covid-19. The vaccine is safe.

Russian Embassy in India

How True Is It?
Only the Phase-I of the Covid-19 vaccine trials has been completed in Russia. Phase-I involves administering the vaccine to a small group of people – 30 to 80 – to evaluate drug’s safety and toxicity at different levels of doses. To compound the troubles, Russians are facing the allegation of “hacking” from the UK, Canada, and the US.

In its latest statement, the British National Cyber Security Centre claimed that APT29, a Russian hacking group, also allegedly a part of the Russian intelligence, attempted to steal data of the Covid-19 vaccine development research.

It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, the UK

Russia has denied the claims, labeling them as “nonsense” in its official statement.

Russian History Of Hacking
Russian hackers, allegedly supported by its government, have hacked into other countries’ systems multiple times with different motives.

  • 2007: Estonia, earlier under Soviet rule, planned to shift a Russia World War II memorial. However, Russia reportedly disabled Estonia’s internet and spread false images, which triggered violent protests.
  • 2008: Russia invaded Georgia and reportedly hacked its internet system.
  • 2014: Ukraine’s election commission was taken down 3 days prior to its national elections. Police reports claimed that the hackings were done to make the Pro-Russia candidate win.
  • 2015: Attempts were made to hack into Germany’s parliamentary network. Germany blamed Russia for the attempts.

Every day I try to build a better relationship with Russia and on the other hand there is such hard evidence that Russian forces are doing this [the hackings].

Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
  • 2015-16: The campaign of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party candidate, and other candidates were hacked multiple times. These hacks were reportedly done by Russia to aid Donald Trump in winning the 2016 Presidential elections in the US.
  • 2016: Russian interference through cyber portals was alleged by politicians during the Brexit movement.
  • 2019: Several pro-Russia propaganda and fake news portals were discovered in Poland by investigative journalists.
Curiopedia
  • Fancy Bear is a Russian cyberespionage group which is known to target government, military, and security organizations, especially NATO-aligned states. Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has said with a medium level of confidence that it is associated with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.
  • Federal Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund is one of the state extra-budgetary funds established to finance medical services to Russian citizens. The activities of the fund are governed by the Budget Code of Russia and Russian law.
  • The financial crisis in Russia in 2014–2015 was the result of the sharp devaluation of the Russian ruble beginning in the second half of 2014. A decline in confidence in the Russian economy caused investors to sell off their Russian assets, which led to a decline in the value of the Russian ruble and sparked fears of a Russian financial crisis.

History of Space Faring Nations – US & Russia

History of Space

Even as the number of countries with space programs has increased rapidly, US & Russia remain the space frontiers. With their hot and cold relations on earth, how far have they come in this race and how long do they go back?

Crux of the Matter

The First Race
The official space competition started between the US and USSR (Soviet Union) during the cold war period (1947 -1991) when the technological advantage was seen as necessary for national security. Mixed with the patriotism, efforts began from both sides to achieve spaceflight milestones

My rockets work perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet.

Wernher von Braun, German Scientist

Reports suggest that Wernher von Braun, the student of the rocketing pioneer Hermann Oberth, was the public face and chief architect of the American space program, helping launch their first space satellite Explorer 1. This detached him from the consequences of his earlier work on the V-2 missile for Hitler and his continued interest in space travel. Till date his liquid-fueled engines are used as the basis for modern space travel via LOX (Liquid Oxygen).

The Vostok 1 Capsule that toured Yuri with one full orbit of Earth

During the International Geophysical Year that marked the scientific exchange between East and West, Soviet Union achieved a successful launch of the first artificial satellite in the world, with the orbiting of Sputnik 1 in 1957.

Followed by cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first man and woman in space. Not wanting to be left behind in the race, the US made Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon with Apollo 11. Thus the US chose the moon’s orbit to excel in while the Soviet concentrated on Earth orbitals.

The Apollo 11 marked the lunar success of NASA’s Apollo program

Efforts To Collaborate With Apollo – Soyuz
In 1962, a period of détente, which is easing of strained relations, started when POTUS John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev exchanged letters about working together on simple space matters like weather satellites. The US and Russia agreed that an international space project would be a political win-win. According to historians, this idea got further highlighted with the release of Marooned, the film in which Soviet cosmonauts rescue stranded American astronauts.

Apollo-Soyuz was the first international mission, carried out jointly by the Americans and Russians in July 1975. As US Apollo module docked with a Soviet Soyuz capsule, millions of people worldwide watched on T.V, the test project wherein two nations worked together with their own spacecrafts.

Mir for Russia and Skylab for USA
Skylab
was the first space station operated by the United States from 1973-1979. It spent six years orbiting Earth until its decaying orbit caused it to re-enter the atmosphere. The station had a workshop, a solar observatory, a multiple docking adapter, and systems to allow three crews to spend up to 84 days in space comfortably. It’s major operations included acting as an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, and Earth observational arena.

NASA’s Skylab

The Space Station Mir served as a microgravity research laboratory in which crews conducted experiments in biology, human biology, physics, and astronomy. It endured 15 years in orbit from 1986 to 2001, three times its planned lifetime. It outlasted the Soviet Union and was later handled by Russia.

US got concerned that with the fall of the Union, funds might get short for the Russian Space Program, and thus the Shuttle-Mir program was started. It flew several American astronauts to Mir between 1995 and 1998 and laid the groundwork for the ISS collaboration.

ROSCOSMOS’s Mir

Formation Of Global Space Station – ISS
After an MoU between the US and Russia, the modular space station ISS was formed in 1998 with an intent to proceed with worldwide cooperation for space exploration. It was divided into two sections : Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), operated by Russian ROSCOSMOS and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), shared by NASA (US) and other nations including JAXA(Japan), CSA(Canada) and ESA (Europe).

ISS Space-environment research laboratory

Good-bye Shuttle, Hello Again Soyuz & Dragon
NASA’s Space Shuttle program was launched in 1972 with the vision of a reusable space shuttle system. True to its mission, the Shuttle became the only winged reusable shuttle to achieve orbit and landing with a crew that made multiple flights into an orbit. Russian shuttle Buran was similar in design and capabilities but it could make only one uncrewed space flight before it got scrapped.

The Space Shuttle Program, composed of an orbiter with two reusable solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank

However after spiralling costs to manage the shuttle beyond it’s envisioned 15 year span, and arising safety issues due to criticism faced for the two major disasters – Challenger and the Columbia vehicles, US retired its Space Shuttle fleet after 135 missions in 2011.

The Soyuz spacecraft was launched on a Soyuz rocket, still known for being one of the most reliable launch vehicles in space

This made Russian Soyuz rockets the only way to shuttle crew and cargo to and from the ISS, which in turn led to NASA paying ROSCOSMOS $2.5 billion+ for its space services ever since. Though in 2014, the condemnatory international reaction of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, made the US rethink about their space cooperation with them. Later in a meeting, NASA reaffirmed its commitment to extend the station use from 2020 to at least 2024.

Finally Elon Musk’s SpaceX became a game changer for NASA in May this year, as astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley travelled to the ISS in their Dragon 2 crew spacecraft, making it the first public-corporate space collaboration to launch humans into orbit. Under this Commercial Crew Program, a NASA audit found out that the cost per seat for each astronaut was significantly lower than Soyuz, Apollo and other space programs in 60 years.

What Next?
Currently, the two nations’ have a differing role in space, where the US is helping private companies like SpaceX and Boeing to fuel the next generation of space exploration with flashy new technologies, Russia is investing in stable provision of decades-old yet reliable designs and equipment, busy finding replacements for the Soyuz program. Hopefully, the next goal for both would be Mission Mars!

Curiopedia
  • Before humans went into space in the 1960s, several other animals were launched into space, including numerous other primates, so that scientists could investigate the biological effects of space travel. The first primate astronaut was Albert, a rhesus macaque, who on June 11, 1948, rode to over 63 km on a V-2 rocket. Albert died of suffocation during the flight.
  • The Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex (OPSEK) was a 2009–2017 Russian proposed third-generation modular space station for Low Earth orbit. In early plans, the station was to consist initially of several modules from the Russian Orbital Segment of the International Space Station (ISS). However, in September 2017, the head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov said that the technical feasibility of separating the station to form OPSEK had been studied and there were now “no plans to separate the Russian segment from the ISS”.
  • Gravity is a 2013 science fiction thriller film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts who are stranded in space after the mid-orbit destruction of their Space Shuttle and attempt to return to Earth. Upon its release, Gravity was met with widespread critical acclaim, including its direction and visuals. Visual effects company Framestore spent more than three years creating most of the film’s visual effects, which make up over 80 of its 91 minutes.