- Russia has another brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- This time it involves Russian troops stepping in to keep the peace and Armenia leaving the region.
- Azerbaijan will be allowed to keep all the land it controls currently, including the culturally significant city of Shusha, known as Shushi to Armenians.
- Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and the Armenian leader of the breakaway Republic recognized the war was strategically lost after Azerbaijan took over Shusha as well as the heights surrounding the capital of Stepanakert, meaning it could be easily attacked.
- The announcement was celebrated in Azerbaijan, while Armenians are calling for Pashinyan to resign and describe the deal as a “betrayal.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan Stop Fighting
After six weeks of fighting, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a fourth ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh.
This most recent ceasefire was brokered by Russia and has provisions that are widely popular in Azerbaijan. The agreement, however, created outrage in Armenia, prompting calls for the prime minister to resign.
The two nations have been fighting over the region, also known as Artsakh by ethnic Armenians, after Azerbaijan attacked the territory to regain control. Internationally, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but 30-years-ago the ethnic Armenian controlled region declared independence and has been protected by Armenia since.
Over the past month, fighting has escalated with both sides accusing the other of are serious war crimes. Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital and most populous city, has been consistently shelled by Azerbaijan, leaving whole blocks destroyed and accusations that Azerbaijan targets civilians. While Armenia has been accused of using cluster munitions against Azeri civilians by Azeri authorities and the Humans Rights Watch.
Will This Peace Deal Last?
The brokered ceasefire went into effect at 1:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. While past ceasefires fell apart within minutes, this version involves Russian soldiers being stationed in the combat zone; meaning the stakes of breaking the ceasefire are much higher.
Additionally, there are provisions that Azerbaijan has demanded since the conflict began, and they have been the instigators of past broken ceasefires. Some of the concessions Armenia agreed to were completely removing its military forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and another Azeri territory currently held by Armenia by December 1, 2020.
Azerbaijan will retain control of all territory held by its forces, as well as areas Armenia’s forces have been removed from per the agreement. Artsakh proper will still remain autonomous and its status was not decided by the agreement. Azerbaijan will also retain control of the culturally significant city of Shusha, known as Shushi by Armenians.
To keep the peace in the region, about 2,000 Russian troops and their equipment have entered the region in the last 24-hours to man the front lines and protect what is left of Artsakh, as well as occupy the Lachin Corridor. The Lachin region is used by Armenia to supply Artsakh. They will remain there for at least five years.
Lastly, Azerbaijan will get a roadway that will allow them to connect the main part of Azerbaijan to the stand-alone territory of Nakhchivan.
Reactions to the Agreement
The Armenian leader of Artsakh announced that the ceasefire was necessary and the terms unavoidable after they lost Shusha, which is only a handful of miles from Stepanakert. It was unavoidable because Susha commands the high ground, meaning Azeri forces could easily shell the capital.
The news of the ceasefire was met with very different reactions in each country.
In Azerbaijan, people took to the streets in celebration. Many Azeris have wanted to regain control of the region since losing it nearly 30 years ago, and its been a major political platform of President Ilham Ajiyev.
However, some weren’t completely happy with the deal and hoped Azerbaijan would take the entire region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Many also quoted Russia’s involvement as a source of disappointment. One man told Reuters, “I don’t trust the Armenians, but I trust the Russians even less.”
This same news was met with fury in Armenia. When Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the ceasefire he wrote, “Dear compatriots, sisters and brothers. I personally made a very hard decision for me and all of us. I have signed a statement on the terminiaton of the Karabakh war with Russian and Azeribaijani presidents…”
“I made the decision as a result of a deep analysis of the military situation… Also based on the belief that this is the best solution in the current situation,” he continued.
“It’s not a victory, but there’s no defeat until you admit defeat.”
Within hours there were protests in Yerevan, the capital, and people quickly stormed the main government building.
People could be heard asking “Where is Nikol? Where is that traitor?”
Many Armenians and 17 political parties are demanding he resigns.
See What Others Are Saying: (Reuters) (New York Times) (NPR)
Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem
The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.
Instulting the Anthem
Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.
The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.
The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.
Concerns for Freedom of Speech
The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.
They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”
Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.
This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.
Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.
See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse
The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.
Priest Sparks Outrage
Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.
Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.
To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.
Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.
“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.
Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”
Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.
Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims
Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.
Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.
The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.
While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”
With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.
The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.
See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)
Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases
Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.
Cases Going Up
The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.
On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.
At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.
Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.
Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.
Doubts About Government Response
The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”
However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.
“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.
He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.
Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.