Chechnya

Ukraine: Torn apart by Imperialism

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Russia's annexation of Crimea, and the rising tensions between east and west, marks an era of heightened competition between rival imperial powers, argues Rob Ferguson.

Russia, the US and the European powers are facing their greatest clash since the Cold War. Following the overthrow of Ukrainian president Yanukovich, the new pro-Western government in Kiev turned to seal a partnership with the EU and Russia annexed Crimea, home to the Russian Black Sea fleet and its route to the Mediterranean.

Tensions are spreading to other "buffer" states on Russia's southern borders. Barack Obama has called on EU leaders to increase their military spending.

Chechnya

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Tony Wood, Verso, £12.99

A small country is repeatedly invaded by a mighty nuclear power. It takes up arms against the invaders, framing its struggle in terms of Islam. The mighty power brands the resistance as terrorists while using massacres and atrocities to subdue them.

Is this Iraq? Afghanistan? No, it is Chechnya, the tiny Caucasus nation occupied by Russia.

The principled anti-imperialist position on this war ought to be a no-brainer. Yet still it divides the Western left.

Russia: Putin's War on Democracy

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Widely billed as 'Russia's 9/11', the Beslan hostage tragedy in September, and the downing of two passenger aircraft by Chechen suicide bombers the same month, have seen the Kremlin do its best to ape Bush and Blair's 'war on terror'.

President Vladimir Putin threatened 'pre-emptive action' against terrorist bases. His remarks raised new fears that Russia would lash out at Georgia, which it accuses of harbouring the Chechen resistance. Putin also clamped down on democracy, announcing that the elected leaders of Russia's 89 regions would now be appointed from Moscow. Local government elections will be restricted, making it almost impossible for independent candidates to stand.

Russia: The Theatre of War

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The brutal storming of a Moscow theatre by Russian forces last month led to the deaths of 117 hostages and all 50 hostage takers.

At least 113 of the hostages were killed, not by gunshot wounds, but by the deadly poison gas the Russian forces pumped into the theatre. The symptoms of the survivors led scientists such as Professor Steven Rose to conclude that the gas used was a variant of the nerve gas BZ developed by the US military in the 1970s. Some have since argued that the gas may have been a derivative of heroin. Whatever it was, the Russian authorities refused to disclose what gas was used, even to the doctors treating the victims, citing reasons of national security.

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