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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Never Underestimate The Staying Power Of Putin's Rule-By-Farce

The excitement with which the West watched Prigozhin's failed uprising reveals the delusional hopes that somehow a Russian white (or black) knight will come to overthrow Putin. No, there's still only one way to be rid of him, argues Ukrainian writer Anna Akage.

Photo of Russia's President Vladimir Putin kissing a girl's head as he poses for pictures with citizens in Derbent, on the Caspian Sea, on June 28.

Vladimir Putin poses for pictures with citizens in Derbent, on the Caspian Sea, on June 28.

Anna Akage


As a Ukrainian, last weekend's Wagner Group insurrection in Russia unfolded for me like a scene straight out of absurdist theater. Were my initial expectations too high? Or maybe I had never watched a real-time military uprising from my computer screen. Either way, I began to quickly understand that the scenes before us share nothing with what anyone can call logical reality.

Even if it was all so absurd, none of it surprised me — but more on that below!

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First, in one video clip, we see Yevgeny Prigozhin's fighters enter Rostov-on-Don, occupy the headquarters of the South Military Command, and capture Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the Deputy Defense Minister of Russia, and bring him to Prigozhin. The footage shows the sworn enemies having a pleasant conversation. Nobody shoots at anybody. Nobody even looks nervous.

Then another video circulates of a janitor sweeping the streets of Rostov, occupied by Russian convicts, paying no attention to the row of tanks behind her. On social networks, Vladimir Putin's opposition watches intently, eating popcorn and praying. Reports flash across our feeds of oligarchs' super-jets taking off following the president's plane getting out from Moscow. There's no FSB intelligence officers, no police, no Russian guards.

The world seemed to freeze: Will something big really happen in Russia right now? Was the war in Ukraine about to suddenly be over? I wasn't placing any bets, but I was pretty sure that after dust settled, the answer would be a clear, plain: No on all acounts

First the celebration, then the arrests

Ten hours later, all the experts’ and bloggers’ predictions had indeed turned out to be far off the mark: nothing happened at all. Someone talked to someone — the Belarusian dictator flashed on television. The main conspirator is escorted from Rostov with a round of applause, and people take selfies with convicts in military uniforms.

Everyone was promised imprisonment; then everyone was pardoned, and some were even rewarded.

The experts and analysts quickly backtracked. They said that even if the uprising failed, they knew everything ahead of time (U.S. intelligence), and it was the start of the end of the Putin era (as almost every New York Times analyst seemed to think).

They can’t be serious, right? There is a beautiful line in an old Soviet movie from 1979, The Very Same Munchhausen, which is apt to describe this miserable coup: first we planned a celebration, afterwards the arrests, but then decided to combine the two.

The spineless Russian opposition are proudly smiling and climbing the scaffold.

No one who can speak publicly knows why the owner of the Wagner group — a war criminal, oligarch, and former friend of Putin — suddenly announced a march on Moscow. It is even more of a mystery why he turned his fighters back before reaching the capital, a couple of hundred kilometers away on an empty road. He could have been sitting in the Kremlin ruler's chair by evening. Still, for some reason, he went to Minsk.

Photo of Putin and Prigozhin visiting a factory in 2010

Putin and Prigozhin visiting a factory in 2010

Government of the Russian Federation/Wikimedia Commons

The sole solution to actually stop Putin

When Putin emerged from his bunker, he praised the soldiers who prevented a civil war and praised the civilians who rallied to defend their homeland. As usual, he was watching a different TV.

Don't wait and hope Putin will disappear before reaching for the red button.

Once again, politicians, experts, and shamans of all kinds from all over the world hope that the Russian Question will somehow resolve itself inside the Kremlin, preferably by the hands of some offended Russian oligarch.

There are some in Washington, Brussels and The Hague who are waiting and hoping for Putin to disappear before reaching for the red button. The spineless Russian opposition are proudly smiling and climbing the scaffolding. Specialists in warfare analyze every appearance by Putin and, once a week, predict his death by a popular uprising, an elite conspiracy, or a mysterious disease.

There is nothing and no one who can stop this war and keep the world from a possible nuclear catastrophe, without the weapons and determination of those who openly and brazenly oppose Putin — without ever falling for his absurdist hints, threats and head fakes.

And right now, that firepower is the Ukrainian armed forces, with the generous help of the West. So keep giving them all the support necessary to finish the job.

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — TikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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