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InterNations -Your expat community
Photo of people waving Ukrainian in front of Rome's Colosseum.

Celebrating Ukraine's Independence Day in Rome.

Irene Caselli

September 23-24

  • Burning hijabs in Iran
  • Elizabeth II’s life in magazine covers
  • One big “flying” sea turtle
  • … and much more.

⬇️  STARTER 

September Is Rolling Ukraine’s Way. Will It Hit A Wall In Rome?

Viewed from afar, the pace of a war can vary greatly: from rapid battlefield strikes and diplomatic breakthroughs to a slow, cruel slog. Watching the war in Ukraine, the month of September has been moving at lightning speed.

Over the course of a weekend, we saw Kyiv’s counteroffensive retake huge swathes of territory as Russia’s defenses imploded and retreated in the northeast and parts of the south of Ukraine.

A chilly face-to-face summit followed the next week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaving the man in the Kremlin more isolated than ever.

Facing little alternative to avert rapid defeat, Putin this week announced a major escalation of Russia’s war effort, with the mobilization of new recruits that pulled back the curtain for his own people on a full-fledged war that had been sold to them as just a “special military operation.”

But the suddenly weak position that Moscow faces is also the result of a slower evolution of factors: not just Ukraine’s surprising military fortitude and Russia’s domestic disarray, but also the notable unity of the West in supporting Kyiv’s efforts.

Yet as the month of September winds down, Sunday could be another turning point on the calendar. Italy’s national elections are expected to usher into office a center-right coalition that would be the most pro-Russian in Western Europe.

In the prime time TV show Porta a Porta on Thursday, the final official day for campaigning, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, defended his long-time friend in the Kremlin, saying Putin“ fell into a very difficult and dramatic situation.”

Echoing Putin’s rationale for his invasion, the 85-year-old Italian billionaire politician said that Russian minorities in Ukraine asked Putin to help them because the Ukraine government was attacking them.

Berlusconi’s far-right ally and former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Europe should rethink sanctions against Russia because of the economic impact on Italians.

Giorgia Meloni — whose far-right party Brothers of Italy is the frontrunner in Sunday’s elections, in a coalition with Berlusconi’s and Salvini’s parties — has instead backed sanctions against Russia in what seemed a deep crack within her political family.

A softening of support in Italy alone wouldn’t necessarily undermine Ukraine’s position. But the risk is that, facing a coming winter where Russia’s grip on energy markets will be felt across Europe, a switch in Rome could raise doubts elsewhere. Call it a snowball effect; and yes, snowballs too can pick up speed quickly.

Irene Caselli

🎲  OUR WEEKLY NEWS QUIZ

What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Which country denied having ever supplied weapons to Russia?

2. Why did Iran’s notorious “morality police” reportedly stop a young woman on the street, who would later die in custody?

3. Who among the following attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral:
William and Kate’s son Prince Louis / Donald Trump / Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary / Bear Grylls?

4. What did Doug Ramsey, the COO of vegan food giant Beyond Meat, do to another man during a fight outside a football game?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]

#️⃣  TRENDING


Deadly protests have erupted in Iran after the murder of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten and detained by Iranian morality police enforcing the country’s strict hijab rules. Amini died last week after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran for “improperly” wearing the veil. Islamic law requires women over seven to wear religious headscarves, with offenders facing fines or arrest.

Now, Iranian women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs to protest. Videos shared on social media show demonstrators chanting anti-government mantras and Iranian forces using tear gas to counteract and disperse the protesters.

🎭  5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW

• “Queen of Soviet pop" v. Putin: Iconic Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, who has been dubbed the “Queen of Soviet pop music” over her 55-year music career, shared a statement with her 4.5 million Instagram followers asking to be added to the foreign agents register. Her declaration comes in solidarity with her husband singer and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, who was put on the list for criticizing Russia sending troops to Ukraine.

• Prost! Oktoberfest is back: The world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest, is back to Munich, Germany, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festive event, held from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, is expected to attract 6 million beer, pretzel and sausage enthusiasts to the Bavarian city.

• New GTA images leaked: Over 90 photos and videos of the much-awaited Grand Theft Auto VI have been leaked online by a hacker. This event has been described as one of gaming’s biggest security breaches. The leaked footage has been widely shared on social media, and the hacker has invited Rockstar executives to negotiate to avoid further leaks.

• Movie theaters reopen in Kashmir:Movie theaters of Indian-controlled Kashmir are reopening after having been closed for more than two decades over fears of attacks on crowded places. The lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha, inaugurated the region’s newest cinema with a screening of Lal Singh Chaddha, a Bollywood remake of Forrest Gump.

• Brad Pitt & Nick Cave debut sculptures in Finnish gallery: We all know that Brad Pitt can act and Nick Cave can sing, but they are now showing their skills in a different field: sculpture. Their debut work was featured at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere, Finland, as part of a larger exhibition by British sculptor Thomas Houseago. Pitt presented 9 works including a molded plaster panel “depicting a gunfight” while Cave’s series of ceramic figurines represents “the life of the Devil in 17 stations.”

🇷🇺 The Draft That Put Putin’s Destiny On The Line


Putin’s announcement of a “partial” mobilization of military recruits have sparked street protests in Russia as well as an instant exodus of people looking to flee the country. A week ago though, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov assured the nation that there would be no mobilization or martial law because Russia was in control of the situation at the front.

For the first time, Russians are facing the real prospect of war. “Reality has broken through the façade of the totalitarian regime, where uttering one little truth can bring down the whole match-stick castle of lies,” writes Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage.

Read the full story: Draft Dodging And Cannon Fodder: How Mobilization Has Exposed Putin's Big Lie

📰👑 A Glossy Farewell To Queen Elizabeth II


Seventy years of royal apparitions and iconic looks from her British throne to consistent globetrotting made Queen Elizabeth II the most famous woman in the world, decade after decade. Throughout her reign, magazines from around the world featured various defining moments of her life, from her 1952 coronation to the birth of Charles, in a show of color-block outfits combined with matching dresses, coats and hats, subtle gestures and well-chosen words.

Here's an international collection, from 12 countries around the world.

Read the full story: Cover Queen: Elizabeth II’s Life In 38 Magazine Covers

💔  Friends Will Be Friends — Until They Aren’t Anymore


The end of an important friendship can be as painful as a romantical breakup, even though the bona fide grief felt by some is often dismissed or overlooked. Friendships don't get the attention they deserve, often because of the calculation that one has many friends, but just one romantic partner.

That doesn’t mean it is less important, or more damaging when it falls apart. Friends are "the family we choose," says Claudia Borensztejn, a psychiatrist in Buenos Aires.

Read the full story: When Friends "Break Up" — The Psychological Damage After Friendships End

🚑  BRIGHT IDEA

Three students of Melbourne's RMIT University created a device to help healthcare workers and patients: the AirLift, a revolutionary pneumatic mattress, helps reposition and transfer patients in several ways. “A spike in demand for at-home care, alongside an under-resourced and rapidly aging workforce is making community healthcare work increasingly dangerous,” said student Fergus Davidson. Their innovation won the James Dyson Award and the team will use the funding to manufacture their project.

🐢🛫  SMILE OF THE WEEK


More than 50,000 people gathered in Taiwan to watch the annual Red Bull Flugtag competition, where 45 teams launched their homemade aircrafts from a 6-meter-high ramp — mostly to see them crash right away in the water, like this improbable cardboard sea turtle. The winner, “Taiwanese Burger,” managed to fly for 32.75 meters before hitting the water.

⏩  LOOKING AHEAD 

• U.S. Congressional leaders have until next Friday to pass a bill that would avert a lapse in funding, and consequently a government shutdown. A number of issues must be resolved beforehand, among which the amount of the Ukraine aid and COVID relief money.

• The 31st edition of South Africa’s Hermanus Whale Festival celebrating the return of southern right whales to the coastal waters of Southern Africa starts next week. In addition to spectacular whale watching, expect a street parade, a local artisans’ market, live music and much more.

• From Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, Kazakhstan is hosting the International Education Fair, the largest of its kind in Central Asia. The fair will be attended by representatives of dozens of prestigious universities seeking to attract international students. According to UNESCO estimates, within the next five years there will be 5 to 7 million foreign students in the world — two-thirds of whom coming from Asia.

• Space enthusiasts, brace yourselves for Monday! NASA will air a live broadcast of its DART spacecraft attempting to change the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos around its parent body, the asteroid Didymos.

• Twitter’s lawyers are set to question Elon Musk under oath next week as part of the legal battle opposing Musk to the social media platform over his failed $44 billion acquisition deal, ahead of a five-day trial scheduled for Oct. 17.•

News quiz answers:

1. In a statement, a North Korea senior official said the country has not supplied millions of weapons or ammunition to Russia and said it has no plan to do so, denying a U.S. report stating otherwise.

2. Iran’s notorious morality police arrested a young Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini last week for wearing an “improper hijab”, breaking Iranian strict rules for how women should dress and cover their hair. Amini later died in custody, sparking nationwide protests.

3. As Chief Scout, TV adventurer Bear Gryllswas among the 2,000 guests invited to the late Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 19. William and Kate’s son Prince Louis was reportedly too young to attend. Former U.S. President Donald Trump did not get an invitation as only current heads of state were invited, while Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary’s invitation was retracted as the Danish Queen already had a +1.

4. Doug Ramsey, COO of vegan food giant Beyond Meat was accused of biting a man’s nose outside a football game in the U.S. state of Arkansas after being involved in a dispute with another driver while leaving the parking garage.1.

✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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*Photo:Evandro Inetti/ZUMA

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin’s Kyiv Obsession, From Failed Feb. 24 Blitz To Coming Winter Siege

Kremlin war aims in Ukraine have never been entirely clear. Part of that is due to the setbacks the Russian army has suffered, and once again it appears that both the strategic and symbolic objective of reducing the capital of Kyiv to its knees is again central.

photo of a passerby in a residential area of Kyiv

Gray skies over Kyiv

Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform/ZUMA
Anna Akage

The notion that Vladimir Putin was only interested in the contested southeastern regions of Ukraine vanished on Feb. 24. His so-called “special military operation” was in fact an all-out invasion of the nation — with Kyiv as the central objective.

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Russian forces attacked the capital from the direction of the Chernobyl exclusion zone and Belarus. In addition to regular troops, OMON special police units and troops loyal to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov were directed toward Kyiv.

High among the orders was the assassination of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, along with his family and top advisers. Oleksiy Danilov, a top military chief, Russian special forces tried in vain several times to pierce the presidential quarters in the first days of the war.

Those efforts, as well as the wider attempt to capture Kyiv, were repelled by Ukrainian forces, with the battles for the city and its surroundings lasting just over a month. By early April, Moscow was diverting its war effort elsewhere, and the capital would gradually regain some semblance of daily normality.

Nearly nine months later, Russian troops have gained then lost much of the territory they have occupied, and are moving steadily back closer to the border of the 2014 conflict. During this time, the south and east of the country suffered heavy losses, and entire cities were destroyed. The retreat of Russian forces from Kherson earlier this month marked another low moment, with signs that the Ukrainian army is ready to move farther east — and perhaps even head toward the Crimean peninsula.

So where is the Kremlin looking now? Yes, Kyiv again.

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