Anne Sophie Goninet
June 04, 2015
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Viewed from afar, the pace of a war can vary greatly: from rapid battlefield strikes and diplomatic breakthroughs to a slow, cruel slog. Watching the war in Ukraine, the month of September has been moving at lightning speed.
Over the course of a weekend, we saw Kyiv’s counteroffensive retake huge swathes of territory as Russia’s defenses imploded and retreated in the northeast and parts of the south of Ukraine.
A chilly face-to-face summit followed the next week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaving the man in the Kremlin more isolated than ever.
Facing little alternative to avert rapid defeat, Putin this week announced a major escalation of Russia’s war effort, with the mobilization of new recruits that pulled back the curtain for his own people on a full-fledged war that had been sold to them as just a “special military operation.”
But the suddenly weak position that Moscow faces is also the result of a slower evolution of factors: not just Ukraine’s surprising military fortitude and Russia’s domestic disarray, but also the notable unity of the West in supporting Kyiv’s efforts.
Yet as the month of September winds down, Sunday could be another turning point on the calendar. Italy’s national elections are expected to usher into office a center-right coalition that would be the most pro-Russian in Western Europe.
In the prime time TV show Porta a Porta on Thursday, the final official day for campaigning, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, defended his long-time friend in the Kremlin, saying Putin“ fell into a very difficult and dramatic situation.”
Echoing Putin’s rationale for his invasion, the 85-year-old Italian billionaire politician said that Russian minorities in Ukraine asked Putin to help them because the Ukraine government was attacking them.
Berlusconi’s far-right ally and former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Europe should rethink sanctions against Russia because of the economic impact on Italians.
Giorgia Meloni — whose far-right party Brothers of Italy is the frontrunner in Sunday’s elections, in a coalition with Berlusconi’s and Salvini’s parties — has instead backed sanctions against Russia in what seemed a deep crack within her political family.
A softening of support in Italy alone wouldn’t necessarily undermine Ukraine’s position. But the risk is that, facing a coming winter where Russia’s grip on energy markets will be felt across Europe, a switch in Rome could raise doubts elsewhere. Call it a snowball effect; and yes, snowballs too can pick up speed quickly.
— Irene Caselli
1. Which country denied having ever supplied weapons to Russia?
2. Why did Iran’s notorious “morality police” reportedly stop a young woman on the street, who would later die in custody?
3. Who among the following attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral:
William and Kate’s son Prince Louis / Donald Trump / Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary / Bear Grylls?
4. What did Doug Ramsey, the COO of vegan food giant Beyond Meat, do to another man during a fight outside a football game?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Deadly protests have erupted in Iran after the murder of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten and detained by Iranian morality police enforcing the country’s strict hijab rules. Amini died last week after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran for “improperly” wearing the veil. Islamic law requires women over seven to wear religious headscarves, with offenders facing fines or arrest.
Now, Iranian women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs to protest. Videos shared on social media show demonstrators chanting anti-government mantras and Iranian forces using tear gas to counteract and disperse the protesters.
• “Queen of Soviet pop" v. Putin: Iconic Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, who has been dubbed the “Queen of Soviet pop music” over her 55-year music career, shared a statement with her 4.5 million Instagram followers asking to be added to the foreign agents register. Her declaration comes in solidarity with her husband singer and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, who was put on the list for criticizing Russia sending troops to Ukraine.
• Prost! Oktoberfest is back: The world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest, is back to Munich, Germany, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festive event, held from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, is expected to attract 6 million beer, pretzel and sausage enthusiasts to the Bavarian city.
• New GTA images leaked: Over 90 photos and videos of the much-awaited Grand Theft Auto VI have been leaked online by a hacker. This event has been described as one of gaming’s biggest security breaches. The leaked footage has been widely shared on social media, and the hacker has invited Rockstar executives to negotiate to avoid further leaks.
• Movie theaters reopen in Kashmir:Movie theaters of Indian-controlled Kashmir are reopening after having been closed for more than two decades over fears of attacks on crowded places. The lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha, inaugurated the region’s newest cinema with a screening of Lal Singh Chaddha, a Bollywood remake of Forrest Gump.
• Brad Pitt & Nick Cave debut sculptures in Finnish gallery: We all know that Brad Pitt can act and Nick Cave can sing, but they are now showing their skills in a different field: sculpture. Their debut work was featured at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere, Finland, as part of a larger exhibition by British sculptor Thomas Houseago. Pitt presented 9 works including a molded plaster panel “depicting a gunfight” while Cave’s series of ceramic figurines represents “the life of the Devil in 17 stations.”
Putin’s announcement of a “partial” mobilization of military recruits have sparked street protests in Russia as well as an instant exodus of people looking to flee the country. A week ago though, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov assured the nation that there would be no mobilization or martial law because Russia was in control of the situation at the front.
For the first time, Russians are facing the real prospect of war. “Reality has broken through the façade of the totalitarian regime, where uttering one little truth can bring down the whole match-stick castle of lies,” writes Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage.
Read the full story: Draft Dodging And Cannon Fodder: How Mobilization Has Exposed Putin's Big Lie
Seventy years of royal apparitions and iconic looks from her British throne to consistent globetrotting made Queen Elizabeth II the most famous woman in the world, decade after decade. Throughout her reign, magazines from around the world featured various defining moments of her life, from her 1952 coronation to the birth of Charles, in a show of color-block outfits combined with matching dresses, coats and hats, subtle gestures and well-chosen words.
Here's an international collection, from 12 countries around the world.
Read the full story: Cover Queen: Elizabeth II’s Life In 38 Magazine Covers
The end of an important friendship can be as painful as a romantical breakup, even though the bona fide grief felt by some is often dismissed or overlooked. Friendships don't get the attention they deserve, often because of the calculation that one has many friends, but just one romantic partner.
That doesn’t mean it is less important, or more damaging when it falls apart. Friends are "the family we choose," says Claudia Borensztejn, a psychiatrist in Buenos Aires.
Read the full story: When Friends "Break Up" — The Psychological Damage After Friendships End
Three students of Melbourne's RMIT University created a device to help healthcare workers and patients: the AirLift, a revolutionary pneumatic mattress, helps reposition and transfer patients in several ways. “A spike in demand for at-home care, alongside an under-resourced and rapidly aging workforce is making community healthcare work increasingly dangerous,” said student Fergus Davidson. Their innovation won the James Dyson Award and the team will use the funding to manufacture their project.
More than 50,000 people gathered in Taiwan to watch the annual Red Bull Flugtag competition, where 45 teams launched their homemade aircrafts from a 6-meter-high ramp — mostly to see them crash right away in the water, like this improbable cardboard sea turtle. The winner, “Taiwanese Burger,” managed to fly for 32.75 meters before hitting the water.
• U.S. Congressional leaders have until next Friday to pass a bill that would avert a lapse in funding, and consequently a government shutdown. A number of issues must be resolved beforehand, among which the amount of the Ukraine aid and COVID relief money.
• The 31st edition of South Africa’s Hermanus Whale Festival celebrating the return of southern right whales to the coastal waters of Southern Africa starts next week. In addition to spectacular whale watching, expect a street parade, a local artisans’ market, live music and much more.
• From Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, Kazakhstan is hosting the International Education Fair, the largest of its kind in Central Asia. The fair will be attended by representatives of dozens of prestigious universities seeking to attract international students. According to UNESCO estimates, within the next five years there will be 5 to 7 million foreign students in the world — two-thirds of whom coming from Asia.
• Space enthusiasts, brace yourselves for Monday! NASA will air a live broadcast of its DART spacecraft attempting to change the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos around its parent body, the asteroid Didymos.
• Twitter’s lawyers are set to question Elon Musk under oath next week as part of the legal battle opposing Musk to the social media platform over his failed $44 billion acquisition deal, ahead of a five-day trial scheduled for Oct. 17.•
News quiz answers:
1. In a statement, a North Korea senior official said the country has not supplied millions of weapons or ammunition to Russia and said it has no plan to do so, denying a U.S. report stating otherwise.
2. Iran’s notorious morality police arrested a young Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini last week for wearing an “improper hijab”, breaking Iranian strict rules for how women should dress and cover their hair. Amini later died in custody, sparking nationwide protests.
3. As Chief Scout, TV adventurer Bear Gryllswas among the 2,000 guests invited to the late Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 19. William and Kate’s son Prince Louis was reportedly too young to attend. Former U.S. President Donald Trump did not get an invitation as only current heads of state were invited, while Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary’s invitation was retracted as the Danish Queen already had a +1.
4. Doug Ramsey, COO of vegan food giant Beyond Meat was accused of biting a man’s nose outside a football game in the U.S. state of Arkansas after being involved in a dispute with another driver while leaving the parking garage.1.
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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.
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.