Prague Watchdog closing

Prague Watchdog, the Prague-based North Caucasus human rights NGO and monitoring service, is closing down after 10 years of operation. In May this year, for reasons that are unknown to the site’s co-ordinator, the delivery of new Russian-language material stopped and has not been resumed. Andrei Babitsky, who was fulfilling the role of chief commissioning editor, appears no longer to be in charge of PW’s publishing, though he continues to be active as an editor and commentator at other Russian-language media outlets, including Radio Liberty’s Russian service.  

According to PW’s present coordinating editor, the site will continue to be accessible even though it is not updated, and its considerable volume of North-Caucasus-related information and resources will continue to be available to the general public.


British blinkers

Julie Burchill, on the curious but predictable attitude of British media to the flotilla crisis:

Not once did I hear a British interviewer ask any of the so-called secular radicals participating in the flotilla why they are allied with Islamic supremacists who subjugate women, persecute gays, oppress non-Islamic minorities and seek to impose Islam globally.

Cropped Reuters photos

On Sunday LGF  published another cropped Reuters photo, comparing it with the original. As the blog noted:

One picture cropped to remove a knife might be explained as incompetence or a simple mistake. But now we have two pictures from the “peace activists” that were cropped by someone at Reuters to remove knives in the hands of the activists, as they attempted to take soldiers hostage.

Reuters’ response:

The images in question were made available in Istanbul, and following normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included cropping at the edges. When we realized that a dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images, Reuters immediately moved the original set, as well.

Gaza links – 2

The crew of the MV Rachel Corrie say they will continue sailing for Gaza.

Israel’s UK ambassador cancelled his appearance at the Hay on Wye festival in Britain. The UK lawyer Michael Mansfield QC said he believed Prime Minister Cameron should send British naval vessels to protect ships delivering aid to Gaza.

Leading officials of France, UK, Ireland and Belgium were quick to condemn Israel’s campaign on Monday, before video footage showed that the demonstrators aboard the Mavi Marmara were armed and that they violently attacked Israeli military personnel. The White House, however, refrained from criticizing Israel, and senior US officials have since defended Israel’s actions.

Michael J. Totten has the video.

Flotilla passengers tell IDF: “Go back to Auschwitz”.

Letter to Le Monde

Via Rights in Russia:

The Russian authors of an article published in the French newspaper Le Monde write: “While European leaders proudly proclaim the beginning of a new era of cooperation with Russia, inside the country journalists, democracy advocates and dissidents are subjected to ever greater pressure.”

The article was signed by Elena Bonner-Sakharova, Konstantin Borovoi, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Andrei Illarionov, Garry Kasparov, Sergei Kovalev, Andrei Mironov, Andrei Nekrasov, Valeria Novodvorskaya, Oleg Panfilov, Grigory Pasko, Leonid Pliushch and Aleksander Podrabinek, reports citing InoPressa.

The authors write: “Journalists are being harassed when they criticize the government and criminal prosecution is not the greatest risk faced by those who do not “inform” public opinion in a “patriotic” manner. In 2009, about a dozen journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition were killed.”

The government of Vladimir Putin, having shut the mouths of those who criticize its policies in the Caucasus, has now taken up with those who are doing this abroad, especially if they dare to speak in Russian, the authors note. These attacks are supported in Europe itself, the authors declare, and point to the case of the First Caucasian TV channel, whose broadcasts to Russia were terminated by the European company Eutelsat.
“Capitulating to the dictates of Moscow, Eutelsat is sending a clear message: a Russian-language television company that does not support the Kremlin’s line will not be allowed to broadcast in the Russian Federation – even if this company is located outside Russian borders, and even if it has a signed contract with a European broadcaster,” the authors note.
And the case of the First Caucasian is not unique, the article goes on to say. “Putin’s grand project of strengthening the “vertical of power” within the country, and returning to military imperialism in foreign policy, is fuelled by the connivance and complicity of some of the Europeans,” the authors say.
Thus, the French government intends to sell Russia one or more Mistral helicopter carriers, and yet scarcely a year has passed since Russian tanks, as the signatories say, “occupied part of Georgia.” They recall how NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that in such circumstances the co-operation that had existed hitherto with Russia was impossible.

Russian troops still remain in Georgia, yet NATO says it intends to strengthen its relations with the Putin regime, the article continues.

“While Moscow muzzles opposition media, eliminates dissenting journalists and intimidates its neighbours, European leaders have not been silent: they speak out for closer ties with the Russian government,” the authors of the article write, expressing the belief that these leaders should stand up for freedom of speech and opposition media.

First of all, they should “remind European companies that they must not become instruments of Putin’s censorship.” European leaders, the signatories are convinced, must also show that “at the beginning of the XXI century a country cannot occupy the territory of other states with impunity.”

The human rights defenders conclude that European leaders must take a tough stance, and not sell arms to Russia, because “what is at issue is not only the freedom of Russian citizens and of Russia’s neighbouring countries, but the conscience and honour of Europe.”

Chechen ghosts – 2

The BBC’s Frank Gardner has once again invoked the “Chechen ghosts” in his latest video dispatch from “Operation Moshtarak”, which contains references to insurgents from Chechnya. Although the video is not on the BBC’s website, it repeats allegations from Gardner’s earlier reports, such as this one from October 2009 (excerpt):

The overall picture is further confused because some Pakistani officials erroneously assume that Islamic fighters from other countries – such as Chechnya – are from Uzbekistan.


While it’s perfectly possible that some of the foreign fighters in the region are Chechen, it would be good to see some proof or demonstration of this by the BBC – otherwise, the reports merely look either Kremlin-influenced or Kremlin-supporting.

Chechen ghosts