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Sleeping Through the Slaughter, by Jessica Hatcher. Vice.
A rare peek into how the U.N. is failing the DRC.
The mission in Congo (acronym: MONUSCO, hashtag: #MONUSELESS) is the largest and most expensive UN operation in the world. It has some 20,000 military personnel there, at a cost of nearly $1.4 billion per year. As such, you'd think they might be on top of things, but whenever a massacre takes place on their watch, the peacekeepers—who've been there since 1999—have to deal with accusations of uselessness.
As our Oryx helicopter touched down in Katoyi village, me perched on the Head of Mission's crate of claret select, I caught my first glimpse of the temporary MONUSCO military base the Human Rights Team would operate from. Thirty-six Uruguayan peacekeepers were living there under canvas, in a circular barbed-wire pen the size of a football pitch. Though many of them said they hated it, being a "peacekeeper" for the international community paid a lot better than the $700-a-month they'd bank back home.
As the platoon commander explained to me, they get caught between a rock and a hard place. "We all have families back home. I want us to get out there, but if it's not safe I have to make the right decision for everyone concerned." By "out there," he meant the villages where these massacres are reportedly taking place.
Snap Goes The Crocodile, by Marina Akhmedova. Open Democracy.
Life inside a provincial Russian drug den. (Originally appeared in Russky Reporter, translated from Russian.)
The wood cabin’s kitchen is dark and cramped. At the table sits Witch with a bowl in front of her. In her hand she holds a wet sponge with which she is wiping the phosphorus off matchboxes. Dark red droplets drip into the bowl. Witch’s hands are red and bony, and she herself is as dark as an overdone roast potato. She has a mop of dark wiry hair. Outside the window are the sickly beds of the vegetable garden. The sky is leaden.
At the gas cooker stands a thin man called Misha. His matchstick arms hold an enamel saucepan lid over the burner. On it are crushed tablets of Sedalgin, an analgesic rich in codeine.
‘This is the way to wash matches,’ she says, turning to me. Witch can barely move her tongue. ‘So you get one of the igre ... dients …’ Her half-dead tongue completes the verbal manoeuvre. Her eyes are fixed on one spot.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Pussy Riot v. Putin: A Front Row Seat at a Russian Dark Comedy, by Julia Ioffe. The New Republic.
Verzilov and Tolokonnikova had met as students in the philosophy department of Moscow State University, and had been doing shocking performance art for years, first with a group called Voina, after which they founded Pussy Riot. (One of their first performance pieces, for Voina, involved having sex, together with a large group, in Moscow’s Biological Museum on the eve of Medvedev’s inauguration. Tolokonnikova was heavily pregnant at the time.) “Punk Prayer” was part of a series of performances that took aim at symbols of the regime, past and present: the Place of the Skulls, the execution spot on Red Square; luxury shopping malls, the Moscow metro. The Catherdal was chosen because it had, in Pussy Riot’s view, become a commercial center and because the patriarch had just told believers to vote for Putin in the upcoming presidential election.