👋 Γειά σου*
Welcome to Monday, where Israel is rocked by mass protests following Netanyahu’s decision to fire the country’s Defense Minister, collapsed Silicon Valley Bank is bought by a rival and a dispute over daylight savings divides Lebanon in two time zones. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt meets with a Chechen battalion fighting alongside Ukraine against Russia.
[*Yassou - Greek]
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• More top officials call on Netanyahu to halt reform: Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, after he’d become the first member of the cabinet to call for a pause to controversial plans to overhaul the country’s court system. On Monday, several other top cabinet members and Israel’s president called for the reform to be put on pause, while Israel's largest trade union federation called a general strike to protest the government's plans.
• Silicon Valley Bank bought by rival: The assets and loans of the U.S. lender Silicon Valley Bank will be bought by rival First Citizens BancShares. The failure of SVB launched fears around the world about the stability of other lenders which sparked global falls in bank shares. In Europe, worries over the strength of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse led to a rushed takeover by rival UBS. In Monday morning trading, the Stoxx index of European bank shares is still down more than 17%.
• NATO slams Putin plans for nukes in Belarus: NATO slammed Vladimir Putin for "dangerous" nuclear rhetoric after the Russian president announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. This unexpected move over the weekend is one of Russia’s most pronounced nuclear signals so far, and a warning to NATO over its military support for Ukraine.
• Former Taiwan president heads to China in landmark visit: Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is heading to China on Monday on a landmark trip, saying he hopes to bring peace and improve relations through the interactions of young people. Ma, in office from 2008-2016, will be the first former or current Taiwanese president to visit China since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war with the Communists.
• Saudi, Iran foreign ministers to meet during Ramadan: After Saudi Arabia and Iran signed a landmark deal to restore ties after seven years of estrangement, the countries’ top diplomats have agreed to meet before the end of the month of Ramadan. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, made the decision after holding their second phone call in less than a week.
• Largest strike in decades in Germany: Airports, bus and train stations across Germany were largely shut down on Monday morning, causing disruption for millions at the start of the working week during one of the largest labor walkouts in decades. The 24-hour strikes called by the Verdi trade union and railway and transport union EVG were the latest in months of industrial action that has hit major European economies as higher food and energy prices are affecting living standards.
• Lebanon wakes up in two time zones because of daylight savings spat: Lebanon woke up in two time zones on Sunday amid a dispute between political and religious authorities over a decision to delay the clock change by a month. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided on Thursday not to start daylight savings time over the last weekend of March but instead to roll clocks forward an hour on April 20.
“Israel descends into chaos,” titles Israeli daily Haaretzafter mass protests erupted in cities including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The politician had spoken out against the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judicial system. In a Facebook post on Monday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called on Netanyahu to pause the judicial reform. “The eyes of the whole world are on you,” Herzog wrote. “Deep concern hovers over the entire nation. Security, economy, society – everyone is threatened.”
A leaked memo from Elon Musk suggested that Twitter has lost more than $20 billion in value compared with the $44 billion he paid for it in October 2022. After Musk’s turbulent takeover, several large advertisers have left the platform and a major source of funds for Musk’s purchase of the company, the investment firm Fidelity, has written down the value of its stake by 56%.
What's driving Chechen fighters to the frontlines of Ukraine
Thousands of foreign soldiers are fighting alongside Ukraine. German daily Die Welt met a Chechen battalion to find out why they are fighting.
🇷🇺💥 In Ukraine, thousands of foreigners are fighting against the Russian invasion. They come from Poland, Belarus, Georgia and Russia. But there are also many British, Americans and some Germans among them. Of all the foreign fighters, however, the Chechens have a very special score to settle. Russia has killed thousands of their compatriots and driven many into exile. In 1994 and 1999, Moscow's troops waged two bloody campaigns in Chechnya.
✊ "We are fighting for the freedom of Ukraine, because without freedom there is no future for anyone," Maga, who’s in charge of the Dudayev Chechen battalion, repeats a few times. He apparently wants to clear up any possible misunderstandings. He and his men could be accused of waging a war within a war and fighting on their own account against their arch-enemy. After all, Ukraine is the place where they can directly fight Russia and Chechnya's current ruler Kadyrov.
⚠️ Maga puts on a mask for a photo. Neither he nor his soldiers want to reveal their identities. The Chechen unit is at the top of the hit list — both for Russia and for Kadyrov's people. "For Putin and Kadyrov, it would be a great triumph to wipe us out," Maga says with a grin. "But we are taking every precaution to ensure that this does not happen."
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— After a year of international travels, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has made a rare public appearance at a private school he founded in Hangzhou, China, to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence on education. The billionaire entrepreneur, 58, has mostly stayed out of the public eye for the past three years, after criticizing China's financial regulators in 2020.
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