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Svalbard and Jan Mayen

An Arctic Pastor On The Front Lines Of Climate Change

As head of the northernmost parish in the world, Leif Helgesen has a clear (and often chilly) view of global warming.

Leif Magne Helgesen (left) celebrating mass at the Longyearbyen 'cathedral'
Leif Magne Helgesen (left) celebrating mass at the Longyearbyen "cathedral"
Leïla Miñano

LONGYEARBYEN — At just over 1,000 km from the North Pole, Longyearbyen — population 2,300 — is home to more polar bears than people. For some locals like Leif Magne Helgesen, a 56-year-old Lutheran pastor who keeps his small wooden church open at all hours, that's part of the beauty of living here.

Towards the end of November, Longyearbyen is coated in snow and powerful gusts of icy wind descend on the town. "Usually, during polar nights, the moon and the stars reflect on the snow," says Helgesen. "The light is magnificent." But in 2016, things were different. The sky was pitch black save for the lights of a few houses. In the meantime, Helgesen's snowmobile gathered dust in the parking lot. "There was no snow," he says. "Not even a snowflake."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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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.

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