February 25, 2022
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the latest updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sanctions in Myanmar, and the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
On Thursday, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, attacks beginning just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on television that he had approved a “special military operation.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law and urged world leaders to impose all possible sanctions on Russia and Putin. Troops are reported to be entering by land, sea, and air. The capital city of Kyiv heard explosions, gunfire, and sirens before dawn, causing panic amongst civilians. On Friday morning, Zelensky accused Russia of targeting civilian areas with rocket attacks, though Russia denies that they are targets. Putin’s announcement came during a meeting of the UN Security Council that was meant to discuss the situation in Ukraine, days after Putin recognized the rebel-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent and announced that he would be sending “peacekeeping” troops to those regions.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Russia to protest the invasion of Ukraine. They were met with a high police presence, and over 1,300 people across the country have reportedly been detained. Many waved Ukrainian flags and chanted messages such as “No to war!”. Police blocked off access to Pushkinskaya Square, and video footage shows police hitting and pushing people. Many Russian public figures also spoke out against the attack, such as the rapper Oxxxymiron, who wrote, “I cannot entertain you when Russian missiles are falling on Ukraine.” Protests have erupted around the world, urging governments to take stronger measures against the invasion.
After the Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced minimum wage hikes earlier this week, factory workers launched a strike to demand higher wages. On Wednesday, shots were fired from inside a car with police license plates, wounding at least three people. Earlier, police had used trucks to block a main road and fired tear gas on protesters who were throwing rocks. The factory workers have organized a three-day strike amid worsening political and economic conditions.
Antigovernment protests in Wellington, New Zealand have entered their third week, as hundreds of demonstrators gather to oppose New Zealand’s Covid-19 mandate. While the police have previously been cautious in their interactions with protesters, the past few days have seen increased attempts from police to evict some protesters, causing the demonstrators to use more violent tactics. Protesters have reportedly thrown feces at police, tried to drive a car into a large group of officers, and sprayed three officers with a “stinging spray.”
On Thursday, farmers drove tractors through the province of Vojvodina in Serbia, protesting the government’s lack of response to their requests for increased subsidies, the abolishment of excise taxes on fuel, and other demands.
The Taliban are creating a “grand army”. Latifullah Hakimi, the official overseeing this process, said that this army will include officials and troops who served the last government. The Taliban had promised a general amnesty for everyone involved with the old regime, but over a hundred people working for the last government have been killed, and many are staying silent to avoid reprisals.A shipment of wheat from India has crossed the border into Pakistan, to Afghanistan. In 2019, Pakistan suspended transit trade from India to Afghanistan over India’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy. However, in a rare gesture, India’s Foreign Secretary saw off the first 50 trucks of a 50,000 metric tonnes shipment.
Iran’s Parliament sets its conditions for Iran’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal. These legislators want a guarantee from the US that they will not renege on the deal, and impose harsh sanctions once again. In addition, these legislators want all sanctions imposed under “false excuses”, which include nuclear, terrorist, and human rights designations removed. Legislators also reminded President Raisi that his administration can only begin to scale back on nuclear advances if the US lifts banking and oil sanctions. Most countries involved in the Vienna talks believe that an agreement is imminent.
A vote on Iran’s “Internet Protection Bill” has been overturned, but proponents are expected to move forward with the legislation. Promoters say that the aim of the bill is to safeguard the population from harmful content on the internet. Opponents believe that it will create significant restrictions on online freedoms in Iran. Originally introduced three years ago, the large public backlash caused the bill to be temporarily shelved. Currently, voting on the bill has been delegated to a specialized committee that would have the power to ratify and experimentally implement legislation. After Tuesday’s committee vote, the sole lawmaker who voted against the bill started a petition to return it to voting in Parliament. So far, 130 out of 290 lawmakers have signed this petition, and more are continuing to sign.
Lebanon’s Parliament extended a law that lifts banking secrecy regulations in order to audit the country’s central bank. This audit is on a list of reforms that donors are demanding Lebanon complete, before helping them with the financial crisis the country is currently mired in.
Three suicide attacks linked to the IS were foiled by Lebanese security forces on Wednesday. These attacks included rocket-propelled grenades, gun fire, and vests rigged with explosives that would have gone off in Beirut’s suburbs. Two suspects have been arrested, and weapons have been seized.
Blockades have become the common form of protest against the now military government and also “punishment” for Egypt for supporting the coup. Protestors in the North have been blockading the maid highway between Sudan and Egypt for weeks and now more blockades are being strategically planned across the country to limit the resources the military government has access to in Khartoum. Protestors and resistance committees are also seeking to “stop imports and exports through the seaports and roads…rejections of the concentration of services in the capital and the export of Sudan’s natural resources.” The UN has issued a statement urging Sudan to end the violent crackdown on protests and stop firing live ammunition and tear gas canisters directly as protestors.
Sudanese deputy chairman of the transitional Sovereignty Council, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo also known as Hemeti, is continuing with the several diplomatic trips he has taken this year. Daglo is going to Moscow, with Sudan’s finance, energy, agriculture, and mining ministers and the head of the Sudanese chambers of commerce, to discuss “ways to develop and strengthen cooperation between Sudan and Russia.” Prior to 2019 Sudan and Russia had a close relationship but since the fall of the al-Bashir regime Sudan had been removed from the United States intense sanctions and had developed a relationship with them. However, the United States has cut aid to Sudan in the wake of the coup by al-Burhan.
Uganda is planning to impose a fine of 4 million Ugandan shillings or impose a 6 month jail sentence on anyone who refuses to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. Only 16 million vaccines have been administered even though the population of Uganda is 45 million.
Author Rukirabashaija has arrived in Germany seeking medical treatment. The author reports he has been diagnosed with damaged kidneys, bruised ribs and post-traumatic stress disorder. Since the time the author fled Uganda he has been tweeting and even had a twitter spat with the son of the president who is allegedly in charge of his torture. Other authors, journalists, political opposition leaders, and activists have also seen the evidence of the brutal crackdown on dissent by the Ugandan government. Author Stella Nyanzi had the same charge as Rukirabashaija placed on her in 2019; she also fled to Germany earlier this year.
The High Representative has issued a statement representing the European Union, announcing the review results of the “restrictive measures” on Zimbabwe. The High Representative recalled the Council Conclusions of February 2020 and the Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU in February 2021, and after a review of the situation in Zimbabwe, the EU concluded that human rights violations have not decreased since and have in fact increased. The arms embargo and the targeted assets freeze against the company Zimbabwe Defense Industries will stay in place, as will the need to investigate the role of security forces in human rights violations. The High Representative notes that the measures are targeted and limited and do not affect the people of Zimbabwe, its economy, foreign direct investments, or trade.
On Tuesday, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego Garcia-Sayan, criticized Bolivia’s judicial system, saying “justice is far from the people”. Garcia-Sayan was invited by the government for a weeklong visit to Bolivia. He emphasized the lack of resources, and the effects of the political and social crisis in 2019 as hampering the efforts of the judiciary on the administration of justice. Garcia-Sayan highlighted “impunity in the face of crime” especially as it related to femicide and sexual violence. In addition, he pointed out prison overcrowding and high rates of preventative detention as another severe limitation to justice, and urged the country to intensify efforts to combat these issues.
On Tuesday, Russia’s State Duma ratified protocols that modify Russian-Cuban intergovernmental loan agreements and grants Cuba an extension in payment until 2027. Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov stated that the agreement was part of a multilateral initiative to alleviate the debt burden of less developed countries and comes after both countries have created a stronger relationship.
On Monday, at least 200 cubans protested near Costa Rica’s embassy in Havana after the country announced stronger visa requirements for Cubans passing through on their way to Nicaragua. In November, Nicaragua stopped requiring visas for Cubans entering the country and the demand for flights between the two countries has skyrocketed. Since then, Costa Rica has started requiring a transit visa for Cubans travelling to Nicaragua through their territory.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stated his support for Russia and it’s recognition of regions Donetsk and Luhansk’s independence. Ortega’s statements of supported were also echoed by Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Victor Hugo Tinoco, one of Nicaragua’s political prisoners, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for conspiracy to undermine national integrity. Tinoco, who served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations and as deputy foreign affairs minister in 1979, was ordered to serve prison time, while other political prisoners have been ordered home detention after the death of Hugo Torres. The people ordered home detention were former Foreign Affairs Minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister José Pallais, and former ambassador to the United States Arturo Cruz Sequeira.
On Thursday, President Biden announced economic sanctions against Russia after President Putin attacked several cities in Ukraine. The economic sanctions target all 10 of Russia’s largest financial institutions, impose export control measures that will more than halve Russia’s high-tech imports, cut off Russia’s largest bank from the US financial system, and freezes any of its assets touching the US financial system.
On Tuesday, the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty on all counts in their hate crime trial. The verdict comes two years after Arbery was killed while being chased and shot by three men while he was out jogging. The three men, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan were found guilty of interference with rights and attempted kidnapping, while already convicted of murder last year.
Washington is preparing for the arrival of the USA Freedom Convoy, a truck convoy that departed Wednesday from Southern California and will participate on a 10 day cross-country protests. The trucker convoy is calling for the immediate lifting of the national emergency declared in response to the pandemic. The convoy was inspired by Canada’s Freedom Convoy. In response, DC requested National Guard presence and security preparations around the US congress.
On Monday, China’s envoy to the United Nations called for all parties to exercise restraint and avoid fueling tensions at a emergency UN Security Council meeting after Russia recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On Sunday, the controversial Beijing Winter Olympics came to an end. Despite China’s efforts to keep the Olympics separate from politics, several scandals took place. On Monday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China stated that “government interference occurred regularly during the Games,” both inside and outside of the venues, and listed a number of claims of intimidation, obstruction, and harassment, despite the International Olympic Committee’s assurances.
Due to Hong Kong’s surge in Covid-19 cases, it has invoked emergency powers in order to get help from mainland China. Compulsory testing of the 7.4 million population is due to begin next month as part of the response towards controlling this outbreak.
In response to the spate of new security laws introduced in Hong Kong, Britain opened a new visa program that would allow over 3 million people the opportunity to apply for a five-year visa, and eventually gain citizenship. This program will allow adult children of eligible citizens to apply independent of their parents. According to Britain, this program is meant to fulfill a commitment made to Hong Kong after China broke the terms of the agreement under which Hong Kong was given back to China.
A recent study published in the Netherlands prompted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to issue a formal apology for crimes committed by the Dutch against Indonesians after Indonesia declared independence. It has also begun a reexamination within Indonesia of crimes committed by the Indonesian government against Indonesians who were from the ethnic Chinese community or were suspected of being communists or leftists in the 1960s.
Earlier this year, the Indonesian government passed a law that would move the country’s capital from Jakarta to a new city called Nusantara in the jungles of East Kalimantan province. This move has caused concern amongst environmental groups, who argue that the changes made to the landscape and environment of the new city will disrupt indigenous populations of flora and fauna, including the orangutan. Government officials have claimed that steps are being taken to ensure that the forests are being taken care of.
After a long campaign from human rights groups in Myanmar and around the world, the EU has expanded sanctions on Myanmar to include the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). MOGE is a significant source of funds for the military junta, and around 50% of Myanmar’s foreign currency comes from natural gas revenues. Human rights advocates are welcoming the announcement and are also urging the USA to follow the lead of the EU by imposing their own sanctions.
The UN is urging countries to stop the sale of weapons to the military junta after a new report found that UN Member States China, Russia, and Serbia have been supplying weapons to the junta. These weapons have been used against civilians following the February 2021 coup.
Representatives from Myanmar’s military junta took the place of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the international court of justice, where Myanmar faces claims from the Gambia that the military carried out genocide against the Rohingya population in 2017. The junta argued that the Gambia did not have the legal right to file the case, and Aung San Suu Kyi has previously defended Myanmar’s military against claims of rape, mass murder, and destruction of Rohingya Muslim communities. Rohingya activists note that they have seen a shift in public perception towards minorities since the February 2021 coup, as many of the new protesters have apologized to the Rohingya community and expressed solidarity with their cause.
Representatives of rebels in southern Thailand will meet with representatives of the Thai government next month. Except for virtual meetings in January, this will be the first time the two parties engage in peace talks in two years. Discussions will surround finding an end to the decades-old insurgency.
On Thursday, Thailand reported a new record daily increase of coronavirus infections at 23,557 new cases. The infections have led to 38 new deaths, much lower than when the previous daily record took place in August of 2021. Approximately 69% of people in Thailand are fully vaccinated.
Belarusian troops, despite Lukashenko’s insistence otherwise, have reportedly joined Russian troops in the invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops invaded Ukraine over the Belarus border after weeks of joint military exercises with Belarus. Ukraine’s central bank has already banned payments to Belarus as well as any operations involving Belarusian currency.
The Venice commission says that the constitutional amendments which will be put to referendum on February 27 in Belarus fail to correct the already existing imbalance of power in Belarus.
The JSC VTB Bank Georgia is a part of the Russian VTB Bank Group. As the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has resulted in sanctions by several countries, the Georgian branch remains solvent and fully protected according to a statement by the National Bank of Georgia. The National Bank of Georgia reiterates that it will “intensively monitor” developments and is ready to “protect the interests of the banks’ depositors using international standards and instruments provided by law.” The sanctions imposed against VTB will limit operations for major Russian banks in various currencies with the restrictions coming into full effect on March 26.
February 25th marks 101 years since Soviet Russia occupied the Georgian capital Tbilisi. In the wake of the Ukrainian invasion the U.S. ambassador to Georgia reiterated the U.S. support to Tbilisi.