On the night of 6 April 1944 Mertizen was dropped by parachute with two other female agents (Marie-Louise Cloarec and Pierrette Louin). After landing in a field in the Limoges region of France the three women made their way to Paris.
On the night of 25 April, the women were arrested after being denounced by a collaborator and interrogated by the SD (Gestapo). In August the women were transported to Ravensbrûck concentration camp where they were shot, and their bodies incinerated sometime in 1945. Mertizen was posthumously awarded the Military Cross, Medal of the Resistance and the Chevalier of the Legion d’honour. Her name will be found on the Tempsford Memorial in Bedfordshire near former RAF Tempsford (138 Special Duty Squadron) which was responsible for parachute operation in occupied Europe. (I’m still researching the other women).
SOE agent Odette Sansom (she married Peter Churchill after the war) was a single mother with three young children in England when she was arrested by the Abwehr and eventually handed to the Gestapo. During their attempt to force her talk Sansom was repeatedly burnt on the back with a red-hot poker and each time she fainted from the pain was revived with buckets of cold water being thrown over her so the torture could continue. When burning failed to break her all her toenails were pulled out but Sansom still refused to give the Gestapo information about her wireless operator who was in hiding and after the war Sansom reluctantly admitted to a journalist she was willing to die rather than answer their questions. Sansom then survived the ill-treatment and horrors of Ravensbrûck Concentration camp and after the war was awarded the GC which she always insisted was not awarded to her personally but represented all those alive and dead, known and unknown who fought for the liberation of France.
The number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine are known to be high, but figures vary considerably and one of several unconfirmed reports recently claimed, “So far, around 18,000 have been killed and over 30,000 wounded” and many images of destroyed armour, convoys and dead Russian soldiers support many claims of high Russian losses, but whatever the true costs these continue to be kept from the Russian people.
Alleged war crimes now being investigated
The world continues to hear disturbing eye witness accounts supported by images of mass graves, civilians shot in the streets, mutilated bodies and other alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops which are currently being investigated by international prosecutors. At the time of writing Russia has been suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council and in response to this decision Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskpov, told journalists “Everything is blamed on Russia” and like the Kremlin he and other Putin supporters reject evidence to the contrary. The Kremlin also made the opaque statement, “they will defend their interests.” (BBC News 7 April 2022)
After the introduction of draconian laws, the independent press in Russia was purged and replaced by journalists and news networks loyal to the Kremlin and by design there is little access to non-Russian news services. According to recent reports from inside Russia Kremlin misinformation/disinformation continues to be a powerful tool for shaping Russian public opinion.
Some researchers claim western sanctions and the invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin call de-Nazification, has been be used to great effect by the Kremlin news services and 83% of Russians approve of Vladimir Putin’s ‘Special Operations’ and seven in ten Russians have negative feelings towards NATO, United Sates, European Union and others opposing Russian aggression.
The Kremlin’s success during their battle of perception continues to be based on narrative identity and the narrative of the nation by looking at the past to create motivation and justification for the present through constant reminders of the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War (WW2) against Nazi Germany and labelling Ukraine and its elected government as ‘Nazis’ can be seen as the most single most powerful element for unifying Russian national identity whilst using visual metaphors to deny everything including war crimes whilst blaming others.
According to various well placed commentators many Russians believe these war crimes are ‘false flags’ and part of a western conspiracy led by America and NATO during a continued proxy war against Russian and Dunbas was sold to America to allow their nuclear weapons to be aimed at Russia.
According to Alexandre Baeva, Coordinator of the ECHR Program on Human Rights, Putin setup a media channel to encourage ‘good citizens’ to report ‘traitors’ and Russia is like 1939, also according to Baeva “People are scared and informing on each other.”
Although Kremlin messaging appears to have resonated among normal Russian citizens indications suggest their information war is failing to influence a significant number of people living in western democratic countries and have increasingly began targeting Africa, south and southern Asia and this is supported by the number of trolls from these regions found on social media echoing Kremlin propaganda.
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