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Le Weekend ➡️ From The Sorbonne To Kyiv, The Friendly Fires Of Democracy

Protests in Paris on April 14

riot_n_chill via Instagram

April 16-17

  • My month under Russian occupation
  • Beijing’s problem with Bucha
  • An eggcellent gorilla surprise
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. What word did U.S. President Joe Biden use to describe Russia's killing of civilians in Ukraine?

2. How much was UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson fined for breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules back in June 2020: £50, £250 or £500?

3. What did U.S. pop star Britney Spears announce this week, only a few months after being freed from her father’s conservatorship?

4. What is “Bernardinelli-Bernstein,” which was spotted this week by NASA?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


From The Sorbonne To Kyiv, The Friendly Fires Of Democracy

What first started May 1968?

The petite question pinged on my phone in the middle of another afternoon of trying to keep up with April 2022. It was my daughter on the other side of WhatsApp, working on her university essay about “protests in liberal democracies” where she was citing the iconic French uprising.

With her deadline a bit looser than ours, I waited until the end of the day to do what I always do when young people turn to me for enlightenment: I asked someone else.

The final French colleague left in the office explained to me that the unrest that most think first spread from the Sorbonne on to the rest of French society (and beyond) had actually begun with protests at the then new university of Nanterre campus, northwest of Paris.

Ahhh, I said. But what exactly were they protesting at Nanterre? Nasty school administrators? Limits on free speech? Police brutality?

That required a bit more research, which he eventually dug up: “protesting the arrest of students for having demonstrated against the war in Vietnam.”

The reverberations of concurrent global events, history’s circular nature: a faraway foreign war sets off local protests, which wind up shaking a nation — and spreading back out around the world. French Revolutions, forever.

And so here we are again. In France, and even more precisely … at the Sorbonne. University students were protesting there on Thursday, leading to sporadic clashes with police that offered a momentary whiff of the upheaval in Mai ‘68.

The spark this time was close to home: the “false choice” of the upcoming second round of the French presidential elections, between incumbent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. The more left-leaning voters (like those at the Sorbonne) stay home next Sunday, the higher the chances of Le Pen winning.

And like the tumultuous events 53 years ago, there will be global ramifications.

Beyond her domestic agenda, which includes crackdowns on immigrants and a return of the death penalty, Le Pen has an apparent soft spot for Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian ways. Though she has condemned the invasion of Ukraine, just this week she stated that, if elected, she would realign France’s foreign policy away from Washington and NATO, and more towards an “equidistance” with Moscow.

Does the fate of a faraway war depend on how many French university students hold their nose and vote for Macron? That may overstate the situation. Yet there is a real choice, and the whole world will be watching: Ukrainians desperately holding out in Mariupol, Vladimir Putin plotting from the Kremlin and those in the relative tranquility of “liberal democracies” with the hard-earned right to protest that my daughter has been busy thinking about.

Jeff Israely


Holocaust museums condemn Russia: Signatories from 17 Holocaust museums across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa have expressed their support for an international investigation into Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Somalia's first women-only media launched:Somalia is launching the Bilan project, an all-female newsroom funded by the UN which aims to help women land better opportunities in journalism. Bilan will produce stories for TV, radio and online media, as well as provide training for young female journalists in the capital city, Mogadishu.

Nirvana+Soundgarden+Pearl Jam: Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselic, Soundgarden’s guitarist Kim Thayil and Pearl Jam’s drummer Matt Cameron are joining forces to form a new supergroup called 3rd Secret. The members, all part of the legendary Seattle grunge scene in the 1990s, also announced the surprise release of the project’s first album this week.

Ukrainian artists on Instagram: Through pictures, evocative paintings or diary entries, young Ukrainian artists are sharing the raw reality of the war on Instagram. Their art, at once moving and shocking, mixes mundane moments like repotting plants with scenes of destruction such as apartment buildings in flames.

Cannes festival lineup: The Cannes Film Festival announced its official selection for the 75th edition, to be held from May 17-28. Among the 18 movies competing for the top prize: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, a sci-fi movie starring Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, and Iranian-born Swedish director Ali Abbasi’s bleak Holy Spider.

📝💥  One Month Under Russian Occupation

This is the story of a young woman sharing her experience living under Russian occupation, as told to Victoria Guerra of Livy Bereg. Olga Simonova is from Dymer, a town located 50 kilometers north of Kyiv. This city was a base for the Russian troops while they prepared their attack around the capital. Olga recounts, from the beginning of the war to today, what happened in her town, and how she felt during these horrifying times.

Read the full story: Dymer Diary: My Month Under Russian Occupation

🇷🇺🇨🇳  China To Russia: No Blank Check On Ukraine

As the war began in Ukraine, China chose not to criticize Russia. Dominique Moisï for Les Echos explains, however, that the shocking images of the Bucha massacre could threaten the budding alliance between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, as the purported war crimes only help to strengthen the position of the U.S. in the eyes of other countries.

Read the full story : Why Beijing Isn't Happy About The Crimes Of Bucha

😷 Shanghai: Zero-COVID Policy Gets Political

Shanghai, China’s most international and cosmopolitan city, had been praised for being able to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. But now with Omicron spreading at a fast rate, the city has been forced into a strict lockdown since March 28. The population is not so worried about the growing number of cases each day as it is about the government’s harsh restrictions. For Worldcrunch, Dan Wu looks at how the pandemic is taking on political overtones in China.

Read the full story: Shanghai Stakes: Why COVID In China's "Bourgeois" Capital Is A High-Risk Affair


K-pop band Epex returned with a new single “Anthem of Teen Spirit” this week. Its release caused controversy, with many pointing out Nazi references in the song’s lyrics, including “crystal night,” an apparent allusion to Kristallnacht, a pogrom carried out during the Holocaust.


Two high school students from southern France have developed a portable ashtray that attaches directly under packs of cigarettes to reduce littering and respect the environment. Their invention is named KLOPper (slang for “smoker” and acronym for “Keep Life Of Planet”).


Animals of the London Zoo got their own festive egg hunts. Zookepers hid tasty treats inside paper-maché eggs for meerkats and western lowland gorillas Mjukuu, Effie, Alika and Gernot, ahead of the Easter holiday weekend.


• Former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez will be extradited to the U.S. next week. Arrested last February, he faces charges of drug trafficking and illegal firearms possession. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

• This coming Monday is World Heritage Day, a.k.a. the “International Day for Monuments and Sites”. This year’s theme celebrates culture while emphasizing the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.

• Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara is expected to name his new slimmed-down government next week. On Wednesday, Ouattara announced plans to reshuffle the government, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Patrick Achi.

• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to visit Delhi to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss, among other things, the Ukraine war and India’s buying of Russian oil.

News quiz answers:

1. U.S. President Joe Biden used “genocide” to describe the alleged war crimes in Ukraine, while France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz chose not to use the word.

2. Boris Johnson was fined £50 by the police for attending a birthday party that breached COVID-19 regulations back in 2020, although the British Prime Minister is potentially facing additional fines for lockdown breaches.

3. In an Instagram post, Britney Spears announced she was pregnant with her third child, her first with fiancé Sam Asghari — something she was reportedly forbidden to do under her father’s strict conservatorship, which ended in November last year.

4. Bernardinelli-Bernstein is the largest comet ever observed by NASA astronomers. Its nucleus, made of ice, rock and dust, is about 85 miles across — 50 times bigger than most known comets.

✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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*Photo: riot_n_chill via Instagram

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Mykolaiv Postcard: Life On Ukraine's Creeping Southern Front Line

The fate of Mykolaiv and surrounding areas of southern Ukraine are crucial in the next stage of the war. A reporter visits local villages ... and the troops on the front line.

Aftermath of shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine

Kateryna Petrenko

MYKOLAIV — This large port city in eastern Ukraine carries great strategic importance for the war. After the Russian army managed to destroy Mariupol and occupy most of the Kherson region, which has access to the annexed Crimea, it leaves Mykolaiv, along with Odessa, as the largest port cities with access to the Black Sea.

If these cities fall, Ukraine will not only lose control over the eastern territories, but also access to the Black Sea, which will completely halt exports and imports by sea.

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

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Needless to say, the fate of Mykolaiv is highly important. And with hundreds of thousands of people still living in the city and surrounding region, a reporter from the Ukrainian media Livy Bereg visited one of the villages on Mykolaiv's outskirts to see for herself how Ukrainians live in close proximity to the Russian army.

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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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