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Armenia Remembers, Greek Talks, Happiest Nation

ARMENIA REMEMBERS

Ceremonies are being held in the Armenian capital of Yerevan in remembrance of the Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks, which began 100 years ago today. “I am grateful to all those who are here to once again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember,” Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917.

  • French President François Hollande, who was attending the ceremony, issued a veiled criticism of Turkey, which continues to refuse the term “genocide” for the massacre. “Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny,” Hollande said.
  • Here’s how an Armenian-Canadian magazine marked the anniversary.

GREEK DEBT TALKS RESUME

EU Finance Ministers are gathered in Riga, Latvia, to discuss the Greek debt crisis, with Athens trying to secure more funds ahead of an $825 million repayment to the IMF due next month. While the leftwing Greek government has reportedly made some important concessions to its creditors on the hardline program that got it elected, some EU leaders have said this isn’t enough to unlock more cash. Read more on The Guardian’s live blog.

  • The Bank of Piraeus has meanwhile announced it would completely write off the debt of clients who owe up to 20,000 euros to respond to the “humanitarian crisis” affecting its poorest clients. Read the full story from AFP.

ON THIS DAY


Forty-five years ago today, China launched its first satellite, 100 years ago the Armenian genocide began. Get ready for your 57-second shot of history.


SCORES OF CHILDREN DEAD IN SAUDI STRIKES

At least 115 children have been killed in the Saudi-led airstrike campaign in Yemen over the past month, with the bomb leaving another 172 wounded, UNICEF said on Friday. The organization’s spokesman Christophe Boulierac warned that these figures were likely to rise further as reports are still incoming.


U.S., RUSSIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER UKRAINE

Tensions are still running high between U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, and officials from both sides accused each other of jeopardizing an already shaky ceasefire, The Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. State Department officials said Moscow was building up its military presence along the border and sending weapons inside eastern Ukraine to build air-defense systems. Russia rejected the claims, saying Washington was violating the ceasefire agreement, after it sent 300 troops last week to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers. Geoffrey Pyatt, the American ambassador to Ukraine yesterday tweeted a picture of Russian defense systems that he said showed a new military build-up in Ukraine. Russian state television RT said it was a two-year-old picture taken during a military parade in Moscow. Pro-Russian rebels meanwhile report that the Ukrainian army has resumed heavy shelling in Donetsk.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Alvaro Vidal/EFE/ZUMA

Behold Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupting.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

After the head of a kindergarten near Munich announced plans to tie the knot with her girlfriend, her work contract was terminated. LGBT activists (and parents) are outraged, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Heiner Effern reports: “Though the principal is apparently abiding by a confidentiality agreement, local politicians are taking up her cause. Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.’ ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’ The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships. ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’”

Read the full article, *Religious Freedom* In Germany? Catholic School Dumps Lesbian Principal.


VERBATIM

“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and in our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur,” Barack Obama said, apologizing to the families of the two al-Qaeda hostages killed in a U.S. drone strike in January.


INDONESIA READY TO EXECUTE FOREIGNERS

The Indonesian government has asked foreign embassies to send representatives to a maximum security prison, suggesting the high-profile executions of 10 drug convicts from Australia, France, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia are imminent, ABC reports. The prisoners haven’t yet been given the required 72-hour notice for their execution, but it’s expected to come soon.


MIGRANTS HIT BY TRAIN IN MACEDONIA

At least 14 migrants from Afghanistan and Somalia have died in Macedonia overnight after being hit by a train as they walked along the tracks, AP reports. Meanwhile, the alleged captain of the migrant boat that sank last weekend, killing at least 700 passengers, appeared this morning before an Italian judge, Reuters reports. The accused denied the charges and said he was just a passenger.


1,000

Scientists from the University of Utah have found that the Yellowstone National Park is home to one of the world’s largest volcanoes which, if it ever erupts, would eject 1,000 times as much material as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and would have a major global impact.


LEAVE YOUR HAT ON

It’s apparently become rather commonplace to invite strippers to perform at funerals in China, but Beijing has announced steps to put an end to this “uncivilized” ritual.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST PLACE

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a UN study has shown. With the planet’s most neutral country closely followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada, we begin to wonder whether cold winters and short summers aren’t the key to contentment.


ERRATUM

Our Snapshot in Thursday’s newsletter of a photograph on Instagram reportedly showing a storm in Sydney overflowing on harbour bridge turned out to be a fake. Sorry for that.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

High on the agenda of the Prague summit of Europe’s foreign ministers this week was a proposal to ban tourist visas for Russians, as punishment for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it is ultimately a way to change the subject, and recalls Zelensky’s iconic remark after the war began.

Passengers arrive at Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia

TASS
Anna Akage

It’s not a new question. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for a ban on tourist visa for Russian soon after the war began, and this week it became the center of the Prague summit of European Union foreign ministers.

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Some European Union nations voiced their support soon after it was mentioned by Zelensky, including former Soviet republics and current Russia neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were followed by Finland and the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland. Hungary, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Germany and France are looking for a compromise that would allow for visas for students, workers of culture and science, as well as people who need entry for humanitarian reason. Perhaps most importantly, however, the U.S. took an unambiguous position against the restrictions.

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Writing contest - My pandemic story
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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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