The sixth anniversary of the Syrian civil war was last week. Of the nearly half-million dead in the rebellion against the Baathist dictatorship of Bashar Assad since 2011, 200,000 civilians have been killed. They have overwhelmingly been killed by the Assad regime.
Syria’s allies, which
The rebels include moderate Sunni Arab Muslims who oppose dictatorship, as well as Kurds. The rebels are backed to a slight degree by an American-led coalition. Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other violent jihadis have taken advantage of the chaos and lack of adequate support for the non-Islamist rebels.
The third Anniversary of the Russian annexation of
was also last week. Russia seized
the territory in 2014 through a covert invasion and a hasty plebiscite
conducted without a legitimate campaign after suppressing freedoms and under
the duress of Russian arms. The invasion
and annexation, which is not internationally recognized, was in violation of
the Russian Federation’s
treaty with Ukraine, in
which the former agreed to respect the independence, sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Ukraine,
including Crimea. As in Russia
itself, there have been numerous human rights violations in Crimea
committed by the Russians.
In addition to Russians,
Crimea was inhabited by Tatars, who are a Turkic people,
and Ukrainians. The Black
Sea peninsula had been part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire before
being conquered by the Russian Empire and colonized.
Economic sanctions have been imposed by the
and European Union, among others, on Russia, but there is pressure to
lift them, despite no improvement in Russian behavior.
The Russians, who are led by an ex-KGB dictator, have also been backing pro-Russian rebels in eastern
whom they have supported by covert invasion, as in Crimea, with the goal of
seizing the territory from Ukraine. Russia
has recently stepped up its offensive operations in Ukraine.