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Russia

In The News

Is He Bluffing? Warnings Issued After Putin’s Nuclear Threat

Backed in a corner with this month’s successful Ukrainian counter-offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin made allusions last week to Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. Putin’s veiled threat has prompted a mixture of warnings and posturing over the past 72 hours.

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U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a weekend interview on U.S. network NBC that “If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively.” Sullivan added that the United States has been in frequent and direct contact with Russia to discuss the situation in Ukraine as well as Putin’s actions and threats.

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Russian School Shooting, Iranian Protests Continue, Super Bowl Singing Comeback

👋 Tere!*

Welcome to Monday, where a school shooting in Russia kills at least 13, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is poised to become Italy’s first female prime minister, and get ready for a superstar comeback at the next Super Bowl half-time show. Meanwhile, Chinese-language digital media The Initium visits the city of Guiyang, where a tragic crash of a bus carrying quarantined residents exposes the darkness of China’s zero-COVID policy.

[*Estonian]

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When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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Annexation Referendums Start In Occupied Ukraine, Forced Voting Reported

Russia's proxies in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions announced that referendums on joining Russia had begun that Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced as shams.

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For four days, "voting" will be held at people's homes "for security reasons," Russian state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti wrote. On the last day of the "referendums," on September 27, locals will be asked to go to "polling stations."

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In The News
Chloé Touchard, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Occupied Ukraine Votes, Iceland Terror Attack Thwarted, Cancer-Killing Virus

👋 নমস্কার!*

Welcome to Friday, where annexed Ukrainian regions begin voting on joining Russia, Iceland arrests four in country’s first terror plot, and a cold sore virus shows promising results in the fight against cancer. Meanwhile, Firouzeh Nordstrom in Persian-language media Kayhan-London shows how the killing of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s “morality police” betrays a deeply violent and misogynistic society.

[*Nômôskar - Bengali]

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Ideas
Anna Akage

Draft Dodging And Cannon Fodder: How Mobilization Has Exposed Putin's Big Lie

As much as he tried to, Vladimir Putin could not avoid the nationwide mobilization of new recruits. But now he can no longer hide from a war he chose for his nation — and more than ever, his own destiny is riding on the result.

-Analysis-

Besides all the chest-thumping, Vladimir Putin has been busy this week moving around his administrative chess pieces.

Wednesday’s announcement of the “partial” mobilization of military recruits was preceded by a flurry of legislative activity in the Kremlin: first, coordinating with the pro-Russian authorities in several of the occupied territories of Ukraine, binding referendums were pushed through to officially make conquered land part of Russia. The next day, amendments to the Criminal Code on mobilization and martial law were unanimously adopted in two readings. And immediately after Putin's speech, introducing increased penalties for acts of desertion and refusal to serve in the military.

Checkmate.

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The pieces are in place to escalate the war dramatically, allowing Moscow the pretext that Ukraine’s efforts to take back its land is now an attack on Russian territory.


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In The News
Cameron Manley, Lila Paulou and Emma Albright

Mobilization Sparks Protests And Wave Of People Trying To Flee Russia

In response to Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization, protesters flocked to the streets in outrage across Russia. By Thursday morning, Russian independent monitoring group OVD, puts the number of arrests as a result of the protests at 1,300.

Perhaps more telling for both public opinion and the potential effectiveness of the mobilization are mulitple indications of Russian trying to leave the country. Travel sales websites inside the country indicate that all direct flights to nations that do not require Russian visas are sold out until Friday at least.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Yves Bourdillon

How Western Sanctions Are Quietly Undermining Russia's Fighting Power

Despite what the Kremlin claims, Western sanctions against Russia are working. Perhaps most important is the embargo on electronic component exports, which prevents the Russian army from rebuilding tanks and missiles severely depleted in the war.

-Analysis-

PARIS Europe is shooting itself in the foot.

That was the narrative that spread among both the public and economists: the European Union sanctions against Russia were bound to backfire, without ever really taking a toll on Moscow — power shortages this winter in the West, while Russia "bathes in cash" thanks to soaring energy prices and a rising ruble. All the while, the received wisdom told us, Moscow will be able to skirt any EU export embargoes via the black market or thanks to its Chinese ally.

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The ever masochistic European Union was blindly following the U.S, rather than truly defending our interests by advocating a rapid diplomatic solution, a formula that ultimately means "just let Putin take Ukraine".

The only problem is that this narrative is that it's a myth. It is a line of rhetoric based on a lack of understanding of the real objectives and functioning of sanctions.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Chloé Touchard, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

“This Is Not A Bluff” — Putin Calls For Mobilization Of 300,000 Reservists

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially addressed the nation early Tuesday to announce the “partial mobilization” of Russian forces that will see military reservists sent to Ukraine to defend “the territorial integrity of our motherland.”

The decision marks a major escalation of the war Putin launched seven months ago, which until now he has tried to downplay domestically as a “special military operation.” The mobilization comes as Ukraine troops have made major advances this month, and follows Tuesday’s announcement of referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine that are expected to lead to their annexation as part of Russia.

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In the highly anticipated speech, Putin restated his claim that Russia is fighting against “neo-Nazis” who have seized power in Ukraine, and made allusion to Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. “We will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” the Russian president said, adding: "This is not a bluff."

In terms of the impact inside Russia, Putin again tried to quell possible public opposition. "I repeat, we are talking about partial mobilization, i.e., only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be called up for military service, especially those who have served in the Armed Forces and have certain military professions and relevant experience," Putin said in his address.

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Geopolitics
Gregor Schwung

The Xi-Putin Alliance Is Dead, Long Live The Xi-Putin Alliance

The façade of unity between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin was lifted in Uzbekistan last week. But where exactly does the Chinese head of state stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Beijing is still establishing its place in the world, and it remains in contradiction to the West

-Analysis-

Xi Jinping is not out of practice. The Chinese President's public demeanor on his first foreign trip since January 2020 was as confident as ever. When meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, he promptly removed his mask and stood inches away from the Russian president, smiling affably.

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What looked routine to the outside world was a diplomatic tightrope walk that the Chinese leader felt compelled to perform. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since February, when they proclaimed a "friendship without borders" at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Shortly thereafter, Putin launched his campaign against Ukraine – and the world wondered whether Putin had used his Olympic visit to obtain Xi's approval for his invasion.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Chloé Touchard, Sophia Constantino, and Emma Albright

How Referendums To Annex Territory Could Trigger Russia's Mass Mobilization

Occupation authorities of three Ukrainian regions have officially demanded referendums on becoming part of Russia.

The Russian authorities of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics and the deputy head of the Kherson administration simultaneously demanded that referendums be held immediately, Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino, and Emma Albright

Kyiv Forces Claim Control Of River Oski As Counter-Offensive Continues

Ukrainian forces have reportedly gained control of the east bank of the River Oski, preparing for an assault on Russia's forces occupying the eastern Donbas region. Russia's army has been almost completely pushed out of the northern Kharkiv region and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the next offensive targeting Luhansk was in the works.

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Though Zelensky repeated that victory would only come when Russian forces were completely driven from Ukrainian territory, Kyiv’s forces are working to establish a foothold on the eastern side of the Oskil and liberate the city of Lyman, which was seized by Russian forces in May. Taking the city of 20,000 would represent a major breakthrough, bringing momentum to free other cities in the region, which were occupied this spring.

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