Tag Archives: hungary

Tom Arms’ World Review: “Butchers of Bucha”

Here’s a good one: In the wake of the Bucha massacres, a Russia Today commentator opined this week that the dead Ukrainians littering the street were killed by British intelligence because Bucha sounds like butcher in English. This made it easier, he continued, for British newspapers to write headlines such as the “Butchers of Bucha.”

How SIS and/or British troops managed to sneak undetected into Bucha, blow up homes, tanks and roads and kill the inhabitants is left unexplained. But that is of no consequence.  The problem is that too many Russians believe him. In fact, what passes for a reasonably independent opinion poll in Russia this week showed that 80 percent of the population accept the Kremlin version of events. A big part of this support is because the Russian people are denied access to news reports produced from outside Russia.

But this is only part of the story. Putin knows that domestic support is essential for success in Ukraine and he has been laying down the foundational lies since 2007—perhaps even before. These included: Ukraine is governed by Nazis. NATO is threatening to overrun Russia. Russian culture is under threat from the West. Russia is being denied its rightful place as a great power. With this firm propaganda bedrock in place – and total state control of the media – it becomes easier for the Russian public to swallow the inevitable mountain of lies that follow.

It is unsurprising that Russian soldiers are being accused of violent war crimes. Violence begets violence and Russia, according to their own statistics, is a violent society. Russian police have reported that one in four Russian households have suffered domestic violence at some point. The figures are considered a major embarrassment, so much so that the Duma recently voted to massage the statistics by decriminalising several categories of domestic violence in an attempt to improve the national image.

The roots of the problem are directly linked to chronic national alcoholism.  Twenty-five percent of Russian men die before the age of 55 alcohol-related diseases. On average, each Russian downs 1,500 shots of vodka a year. Various governments over the years have tried to curb Russians’ love affair with the bottle. The latest attempt was in 2010 when President Dmitri Medvedev introduced a minimum charge of $3 a bottle of vodka and banned drinking and driving. The legislation, however, appears to have little effect on drinking habits and recently the Kremlin gave into public pressure and amended the drink driving law to allow “one for the road.”

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World Review by Tom Arms

In this weekend’s World Review, LDV foreign correspondent Tom Arms looks at the forthcoming elections in Hungary and the ongoing elections in India. France is quitting Mali. Trump is not the only American politician being threatened by legal action. The Trump campaign has Hilary Clinton in her sights again.

Hungary’s beleaguered far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban looks to have a secret weapon up his sleeve for the Hungarian general election scheduled for 3 April—Donald Trump. Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party enjoys a two-thirds majority In the Hungarian Parliament and appeared set to win another sweeping victory in April. But then in October the country’s feuding opposition parties decided to unite under the leader of provincial mayor Peter Marki-Zay. To make matters worse, Mayor Marki-Zay is a conservative. That is, he is cut from the same right-wing cloth as Orban—just not as extreme.

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World Review by Tom Arms: The Middle East, Capitol Hill, Boris and Dominic

In today’s World Review, our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, looks at the outcome of the bloody battle between Israel and Palestinians. Should there be an inquiry into the attack on capitol Hill? Or should the matter be left to the law authorities. The police are also investigating the latest mass shooting in America just as Texas loosens gun control laws. Here in Britain, our conflicts have been political – Cummings, Boris and Hancock. And Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is coming to Number 10. Will Boris challenge him on human rights?

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Observations of an expat: Coronavirus exploitation

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A pandemic is a perfect excuse for politicians to exploit public fear for their own political advantage—and many of them are doing just that.

Let’s start with Trumpland where the administration’s mishandling of the pandemic means that the country is fast heading for a world-beating 100,000-plus deaths. Trump is using coronavirus to stoke the fires of Sinophobia. China has been the US administration’s chief bogey since 2016 when advisers such as Steve Bannon were warning that a Sino-American war was inevitable. The anti-Chinese stand is also proving popular with the voters in an election year with 70 percent of the electorate critical of China.

China’s President Xi Ji-ping is just as bad. Between Beijing and Washington an increasing number of outrageous conspiracy theories have been launched by both sides. The Chinese have also used the pandemic to boost military operations in the South China Sea and is selectively dispatching its medical equipment to countries where it thinks it can establish a stronger foothold. It has also used Covid-19 to crackdown on Hong Kong dissidents and is claiming in capitals around the world that its relatively successful handling of the pandemic demonstrates the superiority of the country’s political system. The latter claim is a leaky bucket as increasing doubt is poured on Beijing’s death statistics.

One of the most blatant pandemic power grabs is in Hungary. President Viktor Orban has managed to persuade his parliament that the danger of the pandemic means he should rule by decree for an unlimited period. As a result, the already sycophantic press has been further muzzled and public protests have been banned and in some cases criminalised.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, released thousands of prisoners from jail—except the political prisoners. He has also blocked fundraising efforts by opposition city councils in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

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Observations of an expat: Liberty

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Retired UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption recently told Radio Four’s World At One said that when people lose their freedom it is not because tyrants have taken it away. “It is usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat.”

The eminent jurist was talking about measures in the UK to combat coronavirus which he described as a cure “worse than the disease.”

At the moment, I think he is wrong about Britain. But if he was talking about Hungary he would be spot-on. There the Fidesz-dominated parliament has responded to the pandemic by voting Prime Minister Viktor Orban the power to rule by decree for an indefinite period of time.

The right-wing populist Hungarian leader can now lock-up his media critics. He can continue to pack the courts with his cronies and block refugees from entering Hungary. He can close down universities that teach the liberal ideas he despises and dismiss from jobs anyone who makes disparaging comments about his rule. He can even suspend elections. Orban can, in effect, do whatever he wants. And because parliament has surrendered its scrutiny powers, he can do it for as long as he wants without fear of retribution.

Orban has gone on record as saying that his goal is to turn Hungary into an “illiberal state” along the same lines as Russia, China and Turkey. Now—thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic—he has the power to do it.

Hungary is also the leading light in the four-nation East European Visegrad Group of countries. Where he goes the others tend to follow. In fact, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic have already said that they are thinking of passing similar decree-type legislation.

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Daily View 2×2: 31 March 2020

So, welcome back on what is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. By the way, if somebody wants to write about it, and its significance, for us, that would be very gratefully received.

2 big stories

Has the Government been less than wholly accurate in its explanations over why the United Kingdom didn’t take in EU projects to bulk-buy medical kit? The Guardian has seen EU minutes which record the involvement of British officials in four meetings dating back as far as 31 January. Missing e-mails, communication confusion, or simply buck passing by HM Government? A public inquiry might not …

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Opinion: EU needs to resolve the crisis over Hungary’s slide to autocracy and human rights violations

The right-wing populist policies of the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, have created real concern over a growing constitutional crisis within the European Union (EU). His Fidesz party secured a two-thirds majority in the 2010 elections giving Viktor Orban, total authority to pass legislation.

Since then, he has been much criticised across the EU, in particular, for his new law setting unacceptable limits on media freedoms. He has also declared the country’s previous constitution invalid and passed legislation with no consultation, declaring a new constitution requiring that all judges older than 62 retire – a cynical ploy thought to favour …

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