Russia fires on and seizes Ukrainian ships.

Here’s your Monday reminder that Russia is still actively invading and committing acts of war against Ukraine, and that tweets from Trump’s toilet aren’t the most important thing happening in the world right now…

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photograph released by Russia's FSB security agency apparently showing an altercation between Russian and Ukrainian ships of the coast of Crimea on November 25 2018

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Ten Years

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia. Russia still occupies parts of the country, and landowners on the fake new borders report having more of their property stolen every day – it’s a slow motion invasion the world has completely forgotten about.

As with Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, ethnic cleansing is taking place in occupied Georgia, and the Russians are destroying all evidence of local people’s culture and history. Historic buildings are being torn down. (A Crimean Tatar set himself on fire in protest the other day – on camera; nobody in the world reported it.)

Georgia was Putin’s test run for his invasion of Ukraine. Taking place just after Obama came to power, he learnt that world leaders wouldn’t act on Russian aggression.

Even though it’s not really needed for diplomatic purposes, Georgia maintains an embassy here in Canberra, to remind people in the South Pacific why they shouldn’t be doing trade with the Kremlin (Fiji and New Zealand, I’m looking at you!).

peacekeepers_barracks_ossetia_2008 Russian invasion of Georgia

tskhinval_after_georgian_attack4battle-of-tskhinvali russian invasion of Georgia

Four Years

Canberra MH17 Service 26th July 2014298-mh17-candles

Today marks four years since the Russian military shot down passenger plane MH17 over the warzone in Ukraine.

Above is the service we held for ambassadors and politicians at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canberra in 2014 (twenty-seven Australians were killed in the disaster). In the first picture ambassadors and other embassy representatives from countries including the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the United States can be seen on the left.

The second is a cross surrounded by 298 candles – one for each victim of the attack.

A Reminder

Over the days of the World Cup Third Place Playoff and Final, please remember that nobody should be enjoying soccer on Russian soil while the country is actively invading Ukraine, killing thousands of their neighbours, committing war crimes in Syria, assassinating political dissidents, torturing teenagers to death, committing ethnic cleansing in Crimea, shooting down airliners, illegally occupying parts of Georgia, illegally occupying parts of Moldova, committing war crimes in Ukraine, persecuting Catholics and Muslims and Jews, and actively trying to destroy Western democracies.

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Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko has created an alternative series of posters for the FIFA World Cup in Russia which is set to start on 14 June. war

A Reminder

Over the days of the World Cup Semi-Finals, please remember that nobody should be enjoying soccer on Russian soil while the country is actively invading Ukraine, killing thousands of their neighbours, committing war crimes in Syria, assassinating political dissidents, torturing teenagers to death, committing ethnic cleansing in Crimea, shooting down airliners, illegally occupying parts of Georgia, illegally occupying parts of Moldova, committing war crimes in Ukraine, persecuting Catholics and Muslims and Jews, and actively trying to destroy Western democracies.

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Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko has created an alternative series of posters for the FIFA World Cup in Russia which is set to start on 14 June

Maybe it takes an author…

Russia has been imprisoning Ukrainians opposed to the Russian occupation since it began over four years ago, many of them in inhumane conditions, and many of them convicted after being tortured.

Oleh (often written as Oleg in the West) Sentsov, a filmmaker from Crimea opposed to the annexation of his homeland, has been behind bars for years, but has now gone on a hunger strike to have other political prisoners (not himself) freed.

It’s not achieved much so far, as the Western media does an excellent job of pretending there’s no war in Ukraine, but now superstar author Stephen King has taken up Sentsov’s cause. Along with numerous other writers and filmmakers, he has written to Putin to draw attention to the issue while the world’s focusing on the World Cup (spoiler: Putin couldn’t care less!).

You can find the letter in question HERE. Sentsov has been on his hunger strike a long time, and there are serious concerns about his survival now.

Free Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Sentsov Oleg Sentsov from russia putin msocow

Vladimir Putin
President of Russia
23, Ulitsa Ilyinka 
Moscow
103132
Russia

Cc: Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA

Dear President Putin,

We, the undersigned artists, writers, filmmakers, and activists, join PEN America to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the wrongfully imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. In light of Sentsov’s ongoing hunger strike, our request is urgent.

Oleg Sentsov, the 2017 recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, has been held prisoner by the Russian government for more than four years. In May 2014, he was detained in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. Numerous governments and human rights organizations have identified these allegations as politically charged, groundless fabrications orchestrated in retaliation for Sentsov’s outspoken criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On August 25, 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentsov himself says he was tortured during his detention in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a false confession. One of the defendants, Hennadij Afanasjew, later retracted his own testimony against Sentsov, saying he was brutally tortured into saying Sentsov was part of a terrorist organization. Two appeals of the verdict have been rejected, as has a request for Sentsov to be extradited to Ukraine. Sentsov has always maintained his innocence.

On May 14, Sentsov declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” This brave yet dangerous decision was not taken lightly; in the northern Siberia penal colony where Sentsov is held, and with his health already weakened, it is uncertain how long he can survive. Thus, the need for action is urgent.

As Russia prepares to host the World Cup in the coming weeks, the eyes of the world will be on the country. Sentsov’s campaign will rightly draw attention to the injustice of his detention and that of dozens of other political prisoners in Russia. He has told his lawyer he is willing to die to bring global attention to his cause. In the spirit of this unifying global event, we therefore urge you to take this opportunity to make a powerful statement by releasing Oleg Sentsov immediately and unconditionally. His life depends on it.

Sincerely,

Chimamanda Adichie
Christiane Amanpour
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Margaret Atwood
Paul Auster
Rosanne Cash
Michael Chabon
Sandra Cisneros
J. M. Coetzee
Teju Cole
Michael Connelly
Molly Crabapple
Lydia Davis
Jennifer Egan
Louise Erdrich
Jonathan Franzen
Philip Gourevitch
John Green
Lev Grossman
Daniel Handler 
Mary Karr
Phil Klay
Nicole Krauss
Chang-rae Lee
Jonathan Lethem
Janet Malcolm
Colum McCann
Ian McEwan
Jay McInerney
Claire Messud
Rick Moody
Paul Muldoon
Herta Müller
Eskinder Nega
B. J. Novak
Susan Orlean
George Packer
Gregory Pardlo
Robert Pinsky
Francine Prose
Victoria Redel
Salman Rushdie
George Saunders
Alice Sebold
Gary Shteyngart
Patti Smith
Andrew Solomon
Stephen Sondheim
Alec Soth
Art Spiegelman
Patrick Stewart
Rose Styron
Colm Tóibín
Calvin Trillin
Scott Turow
Anne Tyler
Ayelet Waldman
Tobias Wolff