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​Two men paddle in a boat in Breathitt County, Kentucky, as devastating floods leave at least eight dead.

Two men paddle in a boat in Breathitt County, Kentucky, as devastating floods leave at least eight dead.

Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 নমস্কাৰ!*

Welcome to Friday, where Russia blames Ukraine for the deadly prison blast in Donetsk, the death toll rises in Kentucky historic floods, and Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel announces his final lap. We also look at recent NATO member Finland and its latest (bold) move to block tourists from neighboring Russia.

[*Nomoskar - Assamese, India]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukrainian prisoners killed in blast: The Russian army and pro-Moscow separatists accused the Ukrainian forces of shelling a pre-trial detention center in Olenivka, eastern Ukraine with HIMARS missiles, killing more than 50 prisoners and injuring 75 others. Kyiv has denied any responsibility and blames pro-Russian forces for the strike.

• U.S. economy shrinks: The U.S. economy had a second quarter of negative growth with gross domestic product that fell by 0.9% on an annualized basis. This raises fears that the U.S. could enter a period of economic recession.

• Kentucky flooding: Death toll rises in historic floods hitting eastern Kentucky as at least eight people died. Parts of Western Virginia and southern West Virginia are also facing major floods.

• Venezuela-Colombia diplomatic ties: Venezuelan and Colombian authorities announced that the two countries will re-establish a diplomatic relationship and will appoint new ambassadors as of Aug.7, when Colombia’s new leftist President-elect Gustavo Petro takes office.

• Protests in Guinea capital: Violence broke out between young demonstrators and the police in several areas of Conakry, Guinea’s capital as protests intensify against the country’s military government. The capital was brought to a standstill and there was at least one unconfirmed report of a death.

• Giant video screen falls during Hong Kong concert: A giant led screen fell onto the stage during the concert by boyband Mirror in Hong Kong, leaving at least two dancers injured. An investigation is under way and the music group has been banned from performing until further notice.

• Sebastian Vettel retires from F1, cites environment: Four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel announced that he will retire from F1 after the 2022 season. The German Aston Martin driver added that the climate crisis has influenced his decision.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Peruvian daily Perú 21 reports on the anti-government protests organized in Lima, Peru’s capital city on July 28, a day that marked both the country’s Independence Day and the first anniversary of President Pedro Castillo’s mandate. The leader, who has survived two impeachment attempts in just one year, is facing mounting corruption allegations and a grim approval rating, amid deepening economic and political strife.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$16.3 billion

Scientists have assessed that out of all the invasive species across the world, two in particular had caused more damage than the others. The American bullfrog and brown tree snake are responsible for $16.3 billion global damage since 1986, with severe impacts on the environment, farm crops and power outages. Brown tree snakes are particularly harmful in the Pacific Islands while European authorities are struggling to contain the spread of American bullfrogs. Scientists hope that their research will encourage more investment in blocking invasive species in the future.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Finland may ban tourist visas for Russians in new move by Nordic neighbor

Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share. It would be a bold move.

⛔ For Russians, particularly the rising middle class in and around the city of Saint Petersburg, Finland has become a favorite travel destination. The capital Helsinki is only a three-and-half hour train ride away, the scenic Finnish lakeside town of Imatra sits across the border from Svetogorsk and Russian skiers flock to Lapland mountain resorts each winter. But this tourist traffic may be about to vanish as a growing number of Finnish politicians are calling for restrictions on visas, a move that would broaden the scope of the sanctions against Russia to target ordinary people in addition to state enterprises, public officials and Oligarchs.

🇫🇮🇳🇴 On Monday a majority of political parties in Finland stated that they would be in favor of putting a temporary freeze on tourist visas for Russians. This would align Finland with Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which have already stopped processing tourist visas. It would also bring Finnish policy closer to that of Norway, another Nordic country sharing a land border with Russia, which tightened its visa regulations for Russian tourists in June.

💸 For Finland, suspending tourist visas would be a bold move, with significant economic consequences: before the COVID-19 pandemic, Russians made up the biggest source of tourism in the country. Since Finland lifted some of the travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, Russian eagerness to visit their Western neighbor has picked up quickly, with 10,520 visas granted for Russian tourists in the first three weeks of July this year, according to the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

Whoever plays with fire will get burned.

— During a phone call to Joe Biden, China’s leader Xi Jinping repeated a warning he has used in past calls with the U.S. president, amid tense discussions over Taiwan. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to the island next month has triggered threats from Beijing, which says the trip would be a violation of the U.S. “One China” policy. Pelosi has so far refused to confirm her travel schedule, over security concerns.

✍️ Newsletter by Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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Geopolitics

Reality Check For The West: Putin Is Neither Weak, Nor Isolated

An effective foreign policy means facing the truth with clear eyes: Ukraine cannot defeat Russia, a country with ten times its firepower. What's more, economic sanctions cannot bring down Vladimir Putin. The West only has one option left.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran earlier this month.

Jacques Schuster

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start: the West had no alternative to the policies it adopted towards Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. If the United States and Europe had not used every economic and diplomatic weapon available to them — only stopping short of being drawn into the conflict themselves — Vladimir Putin would have taken such an apathetic response as a sign of weakness. He would have seen it as an invitation to expand his ambitions even further west.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Germany has an important role to play in the alliances between Western countries. If it had broken ranks and tried to position itself as a mediator between East and West, refusing to supply Ukraine with weapons, that would have had damaging consequences for years to come. Europe would have been confronted once again by a new "German question" and by all the consequent mistrust.

The art of determining foreign policy involves weighing up possibilities and considering subtle differences, constantly asking what would be in a country’s own best interest. Anyone who has given the matter serious thought will conclude that the West’s decisions so far have been correct. They would still be correct if Moscow decided to cut off the continent’s entire gas supply. Germany has survived far worse crises in its history.

Effective foreign policy also means shedding as many illusions as possible. In times of crisis, we are surrounded by comforting myths and it is incredibly tempting to believe them. In Germany, this is making people reluctant to face facts, leading them to adopt a narrow perspective and cling to a misguidedly optimistic view of how easily the war and crisis might be resolved.

We must shake off three dangerous illusions: (1.) Western sanctions will force Russia to back down; (2.) Moscow is isolated from the rest of the world; and (3.) Kyiv will emerge victorious.

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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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