March 24, 2018
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Welcome to Thursday, where Putin plays good-cop/bad-cop with NATO, dictator Marcos’ son is sworn in as Philippines president and a rare portrait by Francis Bacon goes under the hammer. We also look at anti-abortion movements around the world celebrating — and mobilizing — following the historic Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.
It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here
• NATO summit: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance, saying that it “will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure.” Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response was more ambivalent: In an interview, he said “there is nothing that might concern us in terms of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members,” while also warning NATO against deploying troops in said countries.
• Paris attacks verdict: Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the commando that left 130 people dead in the 2015 Paris attacks, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was found guilty of murder while 19 other defendants were charged with sentences ranging from two years to life.
• Xi Jinping in Hong Kong for handover anniversary: China’s President Xi Jinping has arrived in Hong Kong to celebrate 25 years since the UK returned the former colony to Beijing. It is Xi Jinping’s first visit outside of mainland China since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
• Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sworn in as 17th Philippines president: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr was sworn in as Philippines president, replacing Rodrigo Duterte after winning a landslide election on May 9. During his inauguration speech, the new president praised his late father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
• One dead as mudslides hit Austria: Austrian authorities announced that one person died in mudslides caused by heavy rains in southern Austria.
• R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years for sex crimes: A Brooklyn federal court sentenced R&B singer R. Kelly to 30 years in prison for federal racketeering and sex trafficking crimes. The disgraced artist, 55, was convicted in September 2021 of running a scheme to sexually abuse young women and underage girls for decades.
• Missing German boy rescued after week in sewers: An 8-year-old boy was found alive in sewers eight days after he went missing — on June 17 — in the German city of Oldenburg. The boy was rescued by a passerby who heard noise coming from the sewer system and called the emergency services.
Today’s cover of The Manila Times features Ferdinand Marcos Jr., better known as “BongBong”, as he was sworn in today as the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Marcos promised to provide unifying leadership to the country, 36 years after his father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos (who ruled over the country from 1965 to 1986), was deposed.
Anti-abortion activists celebrated the decision to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, hoping it will trigger a new debate on a topic that in some places had largely been settled: in favor a woman’s right to choose. But it could also boomerang.
🚺 The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion put the United States at the forefront of abortion rights in the world. But now, 49 years later, with last Friday’s landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade, will the U.S. once again prove to be ahead of the curve? This is the hope for anti-abortion movements around the world, such as El Salvator activist Sara Larín, who tweeted that the decision was as historic as the Berlin Wall fall.
🗣 In Europe, where the pro-choice stance is widely popular, with 72% support, the reaction from the anti-abortion movement has been more nuanced. In Italy, popular conservative leader Giorgia Meloni did not (openly) celebrate the U.S. decision, aware that she could lose support on the issue. In France, anti-abortion groups have generally remained cautious, with several conservative figures merely praising the possibility of debating women’s rights to have an abortion in the U.S.
🚫 Still, for pro-life advocates, the end of Roe v. Wade could spark a backlash: The party of President Emmanuel Macron and leftist parties have proposed adding abortion rights to the French Constitution. Irish pro-choice campaigner Dr Ailbhe Smyth predicted the ruling would not have a huge effect on Ireland, but could affect countries where abortion is not yet legal. This is particularly true in most African countries, as the U.S. is a major funder of African health programs and NGOs advocating for the decriminalization of abortion and providing support for women seeking to end their pregnancies.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
Everything was fine between us, but now there might be some tensions.
— Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on state television that he would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and reinforced Europe’s defense in Finland and Sweden, after both Nordic countries were invited to join the military alliance. The Russian leader also condemned NATO countries’ “imperial ambitions” and denied that Moscow was responsible for the missile strike on a Ukrainian shopping center that killed at least 18 people. The comments come after NATO branded Russia as its “main threat.”
✍️ Newsletter by McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Anne-Sophie Goninet
Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
First captured by Russia in February when the war began, the Black Sea island garnered particular attention when a Ukrainian soldier challenged an attacking Russian warship with a memorable phrase...
Concrete and glass are often thought of as the only building materials of modern architecture. But Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African winner of a prestigious Pritzker architecture prize, works with clay, whose sustainability is not the only benefit.
Anti-abortion activists celebrated the end of the U.S. right to abortion, hoping it will trigger a new debate on a topic that in some places had largely been settled: in favor a woman’s right to choose. But it could also boomerang.
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.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.