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Turkey Earthquake Toll Tops 1,500, Iran’s Mass Pardon, Queen B Breaks Grammy Record

Photo of rescue teams trying to reach trapped residents inside collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir, after a 7.8 earthquake devastated southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria. An estimated 1,300 have died, with the death toll expected to mount.

Rescue teams in Diyarbakir, after a 7.8 earthquake devastated southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria, killing at least 1,500.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hugo Perrin and Inès Mermat

👋 Salibonani!*

Welcome to Monday, where a 7.8-magnitude earthquake kills more than 1,500 in southern Turkey and Syria, Iran pardons tens of thousands of prisoners, and Beyoncé makes Grammy history. Meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage lists the five reasons why Vladimir Putin may be planning a major assault on Ukraine before the end of the month.

[*Ndebele, Zimbabwe]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: At least 1,500 people were killed and thousands more injured and missing after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck in Turkey near the Syrian border in the pre-dawn hours local time. In Turkey, at least 2800 buildings collapsed. Less than 12 hours later, a second powerful aftershock threatened to overwhelm rescue efforts, already hampered by a snow storm.

• Ukraine defense ministry in turmoil: A day after announcing that Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov would be replaced, a senior lawmaker appeared to balk for now, saying no personnel changes would be made this week. The turmoil comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said troops were fighting fiercely in Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Lyman in the face of an apparent new Russian offensive.

• Iran pardons tens of thousands of prisoners: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reportedly pardoned or allowed a reduction in jail sentences for “tens of thousands'' of prisoners, including some arrested in recent anti-government protests. However, the pardons will not apply to any of the numerous dual nationals held in Iran, to those accused of “corruption on earth”or “spying for foreign agencies” or those “affiliated with groups hostile to the Islamic Republic.”

• U.S. searches for wreckage of suspected Chinese spy balloon: U.S. Navy divers are working to recover the wreckage of the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. Fighter jets brought the craft down over U.S. territorial waters Saturday, leaving debris spread over a wide area. The U.S. believes the balloon was monitoring sensitive military sites, while the Chinese authorities insisted it was a weather ship blown astray.

• Adani’s losses top $110 billion as crisis worsens: The crisis engulfing the Adani group intensified on Monday, as dozens of members of India's main opposition party were detained by police during protests, and parliament was suspended again due to disruptions. Adani freefall continues, with the conglomerate's cumulative market value loss topping $110 billion after being accused of stock manipulation, unsustainable debt and use of tax havens by NYC-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.

• Biggest health strike to date in UK: Health workers in Britain began their largest strike on Monday, as tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance workers walked out in an escalating pay dispute. Nurses and ambulance workers have been striking separately on and off since late last year but Monday's walkout involving both, largely in England, is the biggest in the 75-year history of the NHS.

• Viola Davis achieves EGOT status at 2023 Grammy Awards: Viola Davis has achieved EGOT status, after picking up her first Grammy for the best audiobook, narration and storytelling recording for her memoir, Finding Me. Davis is the 18th person to ever win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award in her career. Here are other highlights of the night, which saw Beyoncé and Harry Styles win big.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Fifteen-year-old Brazilian Rayssa Leal was crowned world champion of street skateboarding in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, reports Brazilian daily O Estado de São Paulo on its front page. The athlete had gained international recognition when she won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 at just 13 years old.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

32

By winning four new trophies, U.S. music icon Beyoncé made Grammy history, becoming the most successful artist in the history of the competition, as she overtook Hungarian-British conductor George Solti’s long-standing record of 31 Grammys.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Now or never? The five reasons Putin is moving up his “spring offensive” to February

The Russian army is fighting fiercely for every kilometer in the Donbas, amid reports of new masses of troops arriving in Ukraine. By most accounts, it looks like Putin has moved up the calendar on a major assault that was originally planned after the winter thaw, writes Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage.

📅 February 24 marks exactly one year since the start of the war, and Vladimir Putin is famously obsessed with big dates in history. Marking anniversaries has been central to his propaganda and leadership style. In this case, however, the war launched last February has lasted far longer than Putin had planned, without any significant victories to account for. Thus it is important that battlefield momentum is going Russia’s way when the Feb. 24 anniversary arrives.

🎖️ Gerasimov, a longtime protege of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, became the chief commander of Russian forces in Ukraine on Jan. 11. Since his arrival, not only have the regular missile and drone attacks continued, but a major ground offensive began in eastern Ukraine. Gerasimov needs significant ground war victories to bring to both his bosses, Shoigu and Putin, and they need to come soon — perhaps no later than the end of February.

💥 The past several weeks have seen Ukraine win the authorization for a range of new weaponry that is indeed farther-reaching. Kyiv will be receiving German and U.S. built combat tanks, 1,300 armored vehicles, while the new U.S. military aid package will also include GLSDB bombs, ultra-precise shells that could change the situation on the frontline. Still, all of this weaponry still needs to arrive, and the Ukrainian troops in some cases will need special training to use it. This too forces Russia’s hand to attack sooner, rather than later.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“To condemn a person like this is a sin.”

— In an in-flight news conference following a six-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, Pope Francis denounced once again the criminalization of homosexuality, saying such laws were “unjust.” This follows the Pope’s recent comments in an interview with the Associated Press, in which he said that although it’s considered a sin, “being homosexual is not a crime.”

✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hugo Perrin and Inès Mermat


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Geopolitics

How Russia And China Are Trying To Drive France Out Of Africa

Fueled by the Kremlin, anti-French sentiment in Africa has been spreading for years. Meanwhile, China is also increasing its influence on the continent as Africa's focus shifts from west to east.

Photo of a helicopter landing, guided a member of France's ​Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region

Maneuver by members of France's Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region

Maria Oleksa Yeschenko

France is losing influence in its former colonies in Africa. After French President Emmanuel Macron decided last year to withdraw the military from the Sahel and the Central African Republic, a line was drawn under the "old French policy" on the continent. But the decision to withdraw was not solely a Parisian initiative.

October 23-24, 2019, Sochi. Russia holds the first large-scale Russia-Africa summit with the participation of four dozen African heads of state. At the time, French soldiers are still helping Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad, and Niger fight terrorism as part of Operation Barkhane.

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Few people have heard of the Wagner group. The government of Mali is led by Paris-friendly Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, although the country has already seen several pro-Russian demonstrations. At that time, Moscow was preparing a big return to the African continent, similar to what happened in the 1960s during the Soviet Union.

So what did France miss, and where did it all go wrong?

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