People in Chechnya's capital used to point proudly at the leafy trees lining the city as a symbol of its serenity. Now new trees are growing, but they silently emphasize Grozny's long torment. \nThe vegetation springing out of the city's war-ruined buildings give a rough guide to a decade of devastation -- the taller the tree, the older the wreck. \nLast week's presidential election in Chechnya was part of a plan that the Kremlin says will lead Chechnya to stability after the war of 1994-1996 and the one that started in 1999. But Grozny is still in its war-induced daze. \nAlong with the thick vines that crawl up many of the hulks, the trees lend the city a melancholy stateliness akin to an ancient ruin. In fact, it is a young city, but one born in blood -- founded in 1818 as a fortress when Russian forces were first trying to subdue Chechnya and given a baleful name; Grozny means "the terrible." \nLeo Tolstoy, who was a soldier near Grozny in the 1850s, wrote of a land where nervous Russian soldiers battled fierce warlords, where men were seized and thrown into pits. The same happens in Chechnya now -- just put the Russian soldiers on armored cars instead of horseback and give the warlords shoulder-fired missiles in place of single-shot rifles. \nViolence and resentment have been so woven into Chechnya that the Kremlin's promise to "normalize" the region raises questions about what might actually be normal. \nWhen asked that question, 20-year-old Khasan Zakayev laughed and then fell silent in confusion. Eventually, he confessed that his dream of normalcy was to become an agricultural specialist. But a nearby buddy had to tell him the Russian word for "agricultural." Many youngsters who were educated during Chechnya's de-facto independent period speak poor Russian. \nZakayev, who was standing outside a polling station in the village of Bachi-Yurt during the election, may have had trouble imagining the future, but a village elder, Said Ami Saidov, had great visions. \nGreeting a visiting foreigner with a bear hug, he shouted: "This election is the road to freedom, the road to independence!" \nThe election was part of Kremlin strategy to give Chechens a sense of self-determination while keeping the republic inseparable from Russia. How it intends to find that balance is largely unclear. \nChechen President-elect Akhmad Kadyrov, whom the Kremlin appointed three years ago as its top civilian official here, is widely feared because of his personal security force that allegedly kills and rapes with impunity. Human rights groups say the election was a sham of crooked figures that vastly overstated Kadyrov's support. \nKadyrov says his first move once inaugurated on Sunday will be to form a commission to investigate "all the crimes that took place over the past 11 years." \nForming a commission may reflect that he has no other solutions to Chechnya's overwhelming problems. Or it could be an important step toward reconciliation, allowing separatists and civilians to publicly come forward with complaints of atrocities by Russian troops. \nThe Kremlin meanwhile is promising to pour money into Chechnya -- some US$470 million is earmarked to compensate Chechens for lost housing next year. But Grozny, where artillery ripped jagged chunks out of most apartment buildings, suggests much more money is needed. \nMost of Chechnya is stuck for the moment in a subsistence economy. Grozny residents trudge down alleys, skirting makeshift roadblocks of concrete chunks and derelict washing machines and stoves, to choose among the thin selection at markets of tilting, unpainted wooden stalls. Potentially rich farmland lies fallow and shattered factories are topped with machine gun nests. \nIn eastern Chechnya, where the wars have been less fierce, life occasionally appears placid, what someone from the West might call "normal." But that impression rarely lasts.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”