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Hungary’s Russia Energy Veto, Palestine Flare-Up, Asteroid Close Shave

Hungary’s Russia Energy Veto, Palestine Flare-Up, Asteroid Close Shave

Mourners carry the body of one of the nine Palestinians who were killed by Israeli troops on Thursday, during a raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

Ginevra Falciani, Inès Mermat and Laure Gautherin

👋 Azul!*

Welcome to Friday, where Viktor Orbán says Hungary will veto any European sanctions aimed at Russian nuclear energy, violence erupts in the West Bank a day after nine Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops, and phew, a minibus-sized asteroid brushes past the Earth. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium looks at how China’s poor management and distribution of COVID-19 medication have led people to turn to generic drugs of questionable safety.

[*Tarifit, Northern Morocco]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Hungary to veto EU sanctions on Russian nuclear energy: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared that his country would veto any European sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, after Ukraine called on the bloc to target Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom. Hungary has a Russian-built nuclear plant on its soil and it plans to expand with Rosatom. Meanwhile, Russia has stepped up attempts to break through Ukraine's defenses in the east of the country.

• Fears of Israel-Palestinian escalation: The Israeli military say they have arrested Islamic Jihad militants planning "major attacks,” a day after nine Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops during a raid in a West Bank refugee camp. Two rockets were fired from Gaza overnight, but no casualties were reported. Israelis jets struck in Gaza in retaliation.

• Attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Iran kills one: A guard has been killed and two injured by a man with an assault rifle in an attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran. Police in Tehran said they have arrested a suspect and are investigating the gunman’s motive.

• Haiti police riot after gang killings of officers: Haitian police officers in civilian clothes blocked streets and forced their way into the country's main airport to protest the recent killing of at least 14 officers by armed gangs expanding their grip on the Caribbean nation. Protesters first targeted Prime Minister Ariel Henry's official residence, according to a Reuters witness, and then flooded the airport as Henry was arriving from a trip to Argentina.

• Biden urges calm ahead of release of police beating video: Bodycam video of the encounter with Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, will be published on Friday, showing him being severely beaten after a traffic stop by five police officers. The officers, who are also black, have been fired and are now facing murder charges following Nichols death three days after the attack. President Joe Biden is urging protests in Tennessee to remain peaceful.

• Adani shares drop 20%: Shares of Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Enterprises sank 20% on Friday as the investment research firm Hindenburg published a report claiming that Adani engaged in stock price manipulation and accounting fraud over the course of decades.

• Asteroid near miss: About the size of a minibus, the 2023 BU asteroid, whipped over the southern tip of South America in the middle of the night. At a distance of 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles), it’s considered a relatively close shave and was only picked up last weekend by an amateur astronomer in Crimea.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Climate scam,” titles Italian weekly magazine Internazionale, as it features its translated edition of an in-depth investigation from Germany’s Die Zeit on companies funding environmental projects to offset their carbon dioxide emissions that often have “no value.” For example, Ryanair was given a warning by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), which said the low-cost airline’s statements suggesting that offsetting emissions would lead to more sustainable flights was misleading. “Businesses must be honest and clear about the sustainability claims they make,” said the director of ACM’s Consumer Department.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

115

Maria Branyad Morera, a Spanish woman born in San Francisco, has officially become the world's oldest person according to Guinness World Records, at age 115, following French nun Sister Andre’s death last week at 118. Morera, originally born in San Francisco, is still very much in touch with the times, sharing her wisdom with followers on Twitter, where her bio reads: “I am old, very old, but not an idiot.”

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

As COVID explodes, an inside look at China's gray market of generic drugs

COVID infections have skyrocketed since China eased restrictions as public health policy has not been able to keep up. Unable to find medications, many have turned to generic drugs of questionable safety. It's the culmination of a longstanding problem, write Xian Zhu and Feiyu Xiang in Chinese-language digital media The Initium.

💊 In late 2021, Pfizer developed Paxlovid, the world's first potent COVID drug. China imported the first batch of Paxlovid for clinical use in March 2022 and included it in the ninth edition of the treatment protocol. But the first 21,200 boxes of Paxlovid were dispersed to only eight provinces, and no further information is available on where the drug ended up and how much it was used. In mainland China, access to Paxlovid is subject to a selection process, as it is almost impossible to get it in public hospitals.

📈 With genuine drugs hard to come by, many people are turning their attention to Indian generic drugs. As the Chinese New Year came, the price of generic drugs once exceeded 3,000 RMB (about $440). Meanwhile, Pfizer's original drug’s price went over 10,000 RMB (about $1,470).

💰 Jingyun Feng, a political scientist, revealed that the main reason why COVID drugs are not covered by Chinese health insurance is that "they are too expensive and will drag the whole insurance system down by crowding out other everyday or rare disease drugs." He also believes that the distribution of Paxlovid is market-based. "Why are these drugs more widely distributed in Shanghai and Beijing? People are richer there, so the drug is only allocated to developed areas."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“We do not want to see any support given to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

— Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reacted to the recent controversy caused by Srdjan Djokovic, father of tennis champion Novak Djokovic, who was photographed earlier this week with a man sporting pro-Russian symbols. Djokovic’s father said that although it was unintentional, he would watch his son’s semi-final match at the Australian Open from home to avoid causing "disruption.” During a news conference on Friday, Albanese reiterated the country's stance on the war in Ukraine and pro-Russian protests: "I will make this point, that Australia stands with the people of Ukraine. That is Australia's position and Australia is unequivocal in our support for the rule of international law.”

✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Inès Mermat, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

With His Trip To Moscow, Xi Has Sent A Clear Message To The World

China has adopted a stance of pro-Putin neutrality since the start of Russia's invasion. But this is not an alliance of equals. China has the upper-hand and sees the opportunity to present itself as an alternative world leader.

Photo of ​Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping in Moscow during the Chinese leader's state visit to Russia.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping in Moscow during the Chinese leader's state visit to Russia.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — While Russia is mired in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin has become the target of an international arrest warrant, China appeared as a lifeline.

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

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Xi Jinping’s presence in Moscow from Monday to Wednesday was a bit like the "quiet force" visiting a friend in trouble. They offer him "face," as the Chinese expression for showing respect goes, referring to him as "dear friend"...

But reality sets in very quickly: between the couple, Beijing has the upper hand — and Moscow has no choice.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, China has observed what one diplomat astutely calls a "pro-Putin neutrality", a subtle balance that suits Beijing more than Moscow. Putin could have hoped for more active support, especially in the delivery of arms, technological products, or ways to circumvent Western sanctions. But China is helping Russia sparingly, while making sure to not incur sanctions in turn.

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