Letter From the Editors

Rescue workers and humanitarian aid convoys are defying the elements to help the millions of people in Turkey and Syria who have suffered from the massive earthquake that shook the region on Feb. 6. The outpouring of support for Turkey seems to know no political boundaries, according to Kommersant: Most EU countries, plus Serbia, the US, India and China are preparing to help with rescue and cleanup efforts. Even war-torn Ukraine has promised to help, not to mention Ankara’s longtime enemies Greece and Cyprus.

Syria, too, has received offers of aid from longtime allies Russia and Iran, not to mention its neighbor Israel. However, the Damascus government claims that political bad blood is thicker than the water that separates it from the West. Humanitarian convoys from there are going only through one UN-authorized checkpoint at Bab al‑Hawa. As Nezavisimaya gazeta reports, “official circles in Syria are complaining about the international community’s selective approach. . . . Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to the Syrian president, said that the US and Europe have sent most of their money and equipment to Turkey, but that Europe has not sent anything to Syria. According to her, the West is only concerned about the situation in enclaves controlled by paramilitary forces hostile to Damascus.” Alleging that the West doesn’t care about the regions where most Syrians live, Shaaban called on foreign players to “put politics aside.”

The West does seem to care about embattled people deeper in Asia, as it has regularly been sending humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh. At least, it did until December 2022, when (according to Armenian politician Ruben Vardanyan, interviewed by Meduza) the Lachin corridor from Armenia was blocked by a group of people from Azerbaijan who called themselves “eco-activists.” Although none of those citizens seems to have previous experience in this field, they claim that Armenians and Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh are illegally extracting minerals and hurting the environment. Vardanyan says that the Karabakh government sent a letter to the Russian peacekeeping forces asking that the protesters unblock the road and allow an environmental impact assessment to be conducted by international standards. “To this day, we still haven’t received a response to that proposal.”

Maybe they should consider floating a request to China to get the lay of the land. There would be no need to worry about road blockades, because Beijing can apparently learn everything about the environment from the air. They must have lost a lot of valuable data when one of their high-flying balloons got shot down by the US after entering American territory. Russian experts commented that it was to be expected that Washington officials classified the airborne object as a spycraft, whereas China insists it was only a weather probe that wandered off course.

We wonder what kind of high-tech probes might have helped former Wagner commander Andrei Medvedev battle fire and ice to abandon the horrors of the Ukraine war, crossing the border from northern Russia into Norway. He recounted some of the harrowing details in an interview with Republic.ru, including a narrow escape over thin ice: “Do you know the feeling when you stand on the bed, and the mattress is kind of wobbly? That’s how the ice felt underneath my feet. When I finally reached Norwegian territory, I sat down in a snowbank and started to yell . . . because I was happy, because it worked.” As Medvedev watched Russian guards running around with their flashlights on the other side of the border, he figured the only reason they decided not to keep chasing him was that the conditions were too dangerous.

All in all, the elements of nature seem to figure quite prominently in the Russian press this week! Must be something in the air.