Fighting Continues in Ukraine Despite Cease-Fire

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – The already shaky truce between Kiev and the pro-Russians in Eastern Ukraine has been faltering lately. Fighting has intensified in Donetsk and the death count is beginning to climb yet again.

 

A still image from a Youtube video depicts Nestor Shufrich, a former deputy to the former and toppled President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, as he is beaten by a crowd outside of a conference pertaining to an upcoming parliamentary election. (Photo courtesy of RT)

Fighting has particularly focused on a strategic airport in Donetsk, where it appears that pro-Russian rebels may be close to capturing it. Capturing this airport would allow easy access for bringing in supplies to the rebels’ territory. While Col. Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman speaking for Kiev, has claimed in a briefing that Kiev holds control over the airport, the rebels dispute this claim. The rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, claims that the rebels controlled 90 percent of the airport, and that “[i]n two or three days, we will take control of the Donetsk airport.”

Fighting near the airport has taken the lives of at least 9 soldiers in the Ukrainian army and wounded 27 more, all in just one day of fighting.

Six civilians were killed near the airport as shelling hit a minibus. A school near the airport was also hit by shelling over 200 people were believed to be at the school when it came under shelling that left at least 10 dead. This was the first day that students in rebel-held land returned to school, as heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine over the past month or more has made it too dangerous.

Amid all of this renewed fighting in the East is the news that on October 26 will be national parliamentary elections that could either heal or hurt the country. While new officials may aid in bringing everybody together to come to peace, the players in the election appear to be separating to their respective corners. The pro-Russians have taken their stance against Kiev and the West, while the pro-Western side has seen a split between mere pro-Westerners and more extreme Ukrainian nationalists.

Two former members of the former President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions were attacked this month by protestors. First, Vitaly Zhuravsky, known for his bills against anti-government protesting, was thrown into a dumpster by an angry mob.

Now, Nestor Shufrich, also a former member under the former President’s Party of the Regions and a defender of the pro-Russian rebels, was attacked by a mob in the Black Sea port of Odessa. While out campaigning against pro-Western and Ukrainian nationalist parties, angry protestors mobbed Shufrich and beat him until he was hurried into a van to be taken away.

While both parties maintain that the cease-fire continues to hold, it appears more and more by the day to be only in name.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post – Fighting intensifies in Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels move on Donetsk airport – 1 October 2014

DW – Shells hit school in Donetsk – 1 October 2014

The New York Times – Ukraine: Politician Is Attacked While Campaigning – 30 September 2014

Vice News – Ukraine Clashes Kill 12 as Donetsk Airport Battles Threaten Fragile Ceasefire – 29 September 2014

CNN – 9 Ukrainian soldiers killed in Donetsk fighting – 29 September 2014

NBC – Angry Mob Tosses Ukrainian Politician Into the Trash – 16 September 2014

 

Oil in Ecuador: Sacrificing Tradition and Future Wealth for Short-term Profits

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is one of the world’s most biodiverse places. Just 2 ½ acres of its Amazonian forest contains more than 100,000 species of insects, and is home to more plant species than the entirety of the United States. Scientists believe the forest is home to several species of undiscovered and unclassified plant and animal species. Botanists believe the critical Yasuni ecosystem could hold the key to the development of future pharmacological and other scientific discoveries. One third of all pharmacological drugs are derived from nature, mostly from plant species located in biodiverse communities like the Amazonian forests. Botanists say the preservation of Yasuni, one of the world’s vanishing pristine forests, is critical to the development of future medicines.

The Coca River cuts through the once pristine forests of Ecuador, now vulnerable to the long-term environmental effects of oil extraction in the region. Last year, 400,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Coco river in a single event. The water remains unsuitable for drinking. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera America)

In 2007, the Ecuadorian government announced that it wouldn’t drill for oil in an untouched section of Yasuni, known as the ITT block. However, despite this promise, President Rafael Correa announced last year that oil extraction would be permitted go ahead in the ITT block. Since then, oil companies have been surveying Yasuni’s ITT block. President Correa claims the project will help alleviate poverty, but many communities fear that continued oil production could destroy the ecological value of the region, putting its residents in danger and forgetting the economic value of the forests for short-term profits. Profits that may never improve the lives of the regions residents.

Oil production has been slowly eroding the Amazonian forests and the incalculable value of its resources, as well as the traditional lifestyle the forests sustain for the regions indigenous peoples. The Waorani tribe has lived off the surrounding forest and river alone. However, over the years, they’ve seen their traditional way of life disappear.

Wani, a Waorani tribesmen, said his children and grandchildren get sicker more often now because of environmental pollutants and introduced diseases. Newly developed roads, forest fragmentation, pipelines and drilling operations have withered away the forests, cutting off the tribe’s access to its traditional sources of food.  “Every day there are more cars and fewer animals,” Wani said. He says the oil companies came in and “damage and pollute the land.”

According to Wani, oil companies promise progress, saying that the money brought by oil extraction will improve their lives. But for a people who want nothing more than to live, as they have for centuries, in a pristine environment free from pollution and the illness it brings, the opposite is true. “The oil companies talk about helping us,” Wani said. “But it’s a lie.”

The Waorani aren’t the only people worried about the long-term effects of oil extraction. A few hours upriver from the Waorani’s traditional homeland lies the impoverished town of Coca, the hub of Ecuador’s oil industry. Last year, a broken pipeline spilled nearly 400,000 gallons of crude oil into the Coca River, a tributary to the Amazon. The spill left Coca’s 65,000 residents without access to safe drinking water. The spilled oil was traced through the western Amazon as far away as Peru. A year later, the water in the Coca River still isn’t safe to drink.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera America – Oil in the Amazon: Who Stands to Win and Lose? – 30 September 2014

The Economist – Oil in Ecuador – 25 September 2014

Al Jazeera America – Indigenous Groups Call for Drilling Limits to Fight Climate Change – 22 September 2014

The Wall Street Journal – State Oil Firms to Invest $400 Million in Ecuador Oil Block – 12 September 2014

Blackface scandal calls South Africans to discuss racism

By Ashley Repp

News Desk Reporter, Africa

JOHANNESBURG– South Africa

In just over a month, two highly publicized instances of the use of black face have rocked South Africa, and embroiled the nation in a debate over current race relations, and the cultural prejudices these episodes reveal. In both of the cases, photos of the costumes were posted to social media. But the cases are unique in the specific issues they expose.

backface

Photo: Two university students in blackface- courtesy of Aljazeera

The first case involved two female students at the University of Pretoria, who dressed up for a party as black domestic workers. The students were dressed for a private birthday party, but because the photo was taken on school grounds, the university took action, and dismissed the girls from the residence halls. And while this was action to an extent, the photo provoked discourse underlying deep-seated race tensions in a nation that has a not so distant apartheid past. Many South Africans criticized the students on social media, asserting that while they “mock” the domestic worker, she is likely the one that raised them, and that this photo was racist to the extreme. The photo also called South Africans to reflect on jobs, and how those are often dependent on race. The domestic worker, for example, is a black woman who runs a wealthy white household, often tending to cleaning, cooking, and child care. These workers also earn very little. The Commander in Chief of Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema,also announced that the organization would trade blackface for land, since black South Africans often do not, or unable to own land. In his statement, he noted “Come now… you can’t pretend to be black and own land.”

The second photo involved two students dressed as Venus and Serena Williams. The students claimed that there was no malicious intent behind the costumes and they regret their decision to wear them. After investigation, chose not to discipline the students further.

The photos call to the forefront racist paradigms that still operate in South Africa, leaving many to think that in some ways, the nation has not moved far beyond the apartheid system that governed social, cultural, and economic systems just two decades ago. Will these photos provide the impetus for honest dialogue regarding deeply held prejudices on both sides, both white and black, as well as the systemic features that maintain white dominance in many ways, or will the photos further divide the nation along racial lines?

 

For more information, please visit:

Aljazeera- South African college in ‘blackface’ scandal– 27 Sept. 2014

Aljazeera- South African students in blackface receive backlash, punishment– 6 Aug. 2014

All Africa- South Africa: Malema offers blackface in exchange for land– 29 Sept. 2014

New York Post- Students who wore blackface to portray Venus and Serena accused of racism– 26 Sept. 2014

 

Oil in Ecuador: Sacrificing Tradition and Future Wealth for Short-term Profits

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is one of the world’s most biodiverse places. Just 2 ½ acres of its Amazonian forest contains more than 100,000 species of insects, and is home to more plant species than the entirety of the United States. Scientists believe the forest is home to several species of undiscovered and unclassified plant and animal species. Botanists believe the critical Yasuni ecosystem could hold the key to the development of future pharmacological and other scientific discoveries. One third of all pharmacological drugs are derived from nature, mostly from plant species located in biodiverse communities like the Amazonian forests. Botanists say the preservation of Yasuni, one of the world’s vanishing pristine forests, is critical to the development of future medicines.

The Coca River cuts through the once pristine forests of Ecuador, now vulnerable to the long-term environmental effects of oil extraction in the region. Last year, 400,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Coco river in a single event. The water remains unsuitable for drinking. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera America)

In 2007, the Ecuadorian government announced that it wouldn’t drill for oil in an untouched section of Yasuni, known as the ITT block. However, despite this promise, President Rafael Correa announced last year that oil extraction would be permitted go ahead in the ITT block. Since then, oil companies have been surveying Yasuni’s ITT block. President Correa claims the project will help alleviate poverty, but many communities fear that continued oil production could destroy the ecological value of the region, putting its residents in danger and forgetting the economic value of the forests for short-term profits. Profits that may never improve the lives of the regions residents.

Oil production has been slowly eroding the Amazonian forests and the incalculable value of its resources, as well as the traditional lifestyle the forests sustain for the regions indigenous peoples. The Waorani tribe has lived off the surrounding forest and river alone. However, over the years, they’ve seen their traditional way of life disappear.

Wani, a Waorani tribesmen, said his children and grandchildren get sicker more often now because of environmental pollutants and introduced diseases. Newly developed roads, forest fragmentation, pipelines and drilling operations have withered away the forests, cutting off the tribe’s access to its traditional sources of food.  “Every day there are more cars and fewer animals,” Wani said. He says the oil companies came in and “damage and pollute the land.”

According to Wani, oil companies promise progress, saying that the money brought by oil extraction will improve their lives. But for a people who want nothing more than to live, as they have for centuries, in a pristine environment free from pollution and the illness it brings, the opposite is true. “The oil companies talk about helping us,” Wani said. “But it’s a lie.”

The Waorani aren’t the only people worried about the long-term effects of oil extraction. A few hours upriver from the Waorani’s traditional homeland lies the impoverished town of Coca, the hub of Ecuador’s oil industry. Last year, a broken pipeline spilled nearly 400,000 gallons of crude oil into the Coca River, a tributary to the Amazon. The spill left Coca’s 65,000 residents without access to safe drinking water. The spilled oil was traced through the western Amazon as far away as Peru. A year later, the water in the Coca River still isn’t safe to drink.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera America – Oil in the Amazon: Who Stands to Win and Lose? – 30 September 2014

The Economist – Oil in Ecuador – 25 September 2014

Al Jazeera America – Indigenous Groups Call for Drilling Limits to Fight Climate Change – 22 September 2014

The Wall Street Journal – State Oil Firms to Invest $400 Million in Ecuador Oil Block – 12 September 2014