Welcome to Wednesday, where army officers say they’ve seized power in Gabon, Kyiv is under fire in a major Russian air assault in Ukraine, and tennis players complain about wafts of weed at the U.S. Open. Meanwhile, The Puszcza Białowieska, one of Europe's oldest forests, has become a battleground not only for environment causes, but also for a geopolitical standoff over migration.
[*Namaskār - Marathi, India]
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• Major Russia air assault: Two people were killed and two wounded in a “massive” Russian missile and drone attack in Kyiv on Wednesday, part of what Ukrainian officials are calling the biggest air assault since the spring. Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported Ukrainian drones targeted six Russian regions, including an airport in the western Pskov region and the regions of Moscow, Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan and Kaluga. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been buried in a private funeral in St Petersburg.
• Gabon military seizes power after election: A group of senior military officers in Gabon claimed they had seized power on Wednesday, shortly after President Ali Bongo's re-election was announced. Twelve soldiers appeared on national television, saying they were annulling the results of Saturday's poll adding all borders were closed until further notice and state institutions were dissolved.
• Greek wildfire is largest recorded in the EU: Eleven planes and one helicopter from the EU fleet have been sent to help Greece counter the fire north of the city of Alexandroupoli, along with 407 firefighters. The EU's civil protection service said the fire has burnt over 810 square kilometers (310 square miles). "This wildfire is the largest in the EU since 2000, when the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) began recording data," the service said.
• Canada warns LGBTQ+ travelers of U.S. risks: Canada has issued a new travel warning to its LGBTQ+ citizens planning to visit the United States. Anti-LGBTQ+ protests in the U.S. rose 30-fold last year compared with 2017, while legal moves to restrict LGBTQ+ rights are on the rise. Global Affairs Canada warned that some state laws may affect them on their travels without specifying where. Such warnings are usually reserved for countries such as Uganda, Russia or Egypt.
• Idalia to hit Florida as ‘extremely dangerous’ category 4 hurricane: Hurricane Idalia has intensified into a dangerous Category 4 hurricane with winds going 130 mph, capable of widespread damage, ahead of the store’s expected hit on Florida’s coast Wednesday morning. Numerous residents had been warned to flee, schools are closed and the National Guard is preparing for rescues.
• Australia sets October date for historic vote on Indigenous recognition: Australians will vote on October 14 on whether they want to change the constitution to recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait island people, a defining moment in the struggle for Indigenous rights in the country.
• Dropshot It Like It’s Hot: A strong marijuana smell made a stink at the U.S. Open and clouded the concentration of the players. Court 17 is where eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari, complained about an overwhelming odor of pot during her first-round loss. 'Court 17 definitely smells like Snoop Dogg's living room,' said Alexander Zverev, the tournament's 12th-seeded man who won his opening match on the court Tuesday.
“Evros fire is EU’s largest in decades” reads the front page of Greek daily Kathimerini, as the blaze that began near the city of Alexandroupolis over ten days ago continues to burn out of control. “According to reports, 808.7 square kilometers have burned, an area larger than New York City” reads the subheadline, the flames having quickly spread across the Evros region, killing at least 20 people.
Officials in Changshan county, central China, are offering a 1,000-yuan ($137) reward for couples who marry while the bride is 25 or younger. The announcement was made on the county's official account on social media platform WeChat to encourage "age-appropriate marriage and childbearing." Other subsidies have also been introduced to help parents with childcare, education and fertility. This comes at a time when the birthrate is declining and China faces an impending demographic crisis.
Europe's Oldest and Largest Forest Is Now A Major Political Battleground
The Puszcza Białowieska, one of Europe's oldest forests, has become a battleground, with environmentalists increasingly concerned about widespread logging in the forest, which is also ground zero for heightened tensions with neighbor Belarus and the ongoing migration crisis. Katarzyna Skiba writes for Worldcrunch about how all across Poland, increased logging with political motivations has been stirring activist tensions.
🌳 The Białowieża Forest, Puszcza Białowieska, known as the oldest and last of the remaining primeval forests in Europe, has become a battleground for activists. Environmentalists have noted the “lightning speed” with which timber is being extracted from the forest, bringing complaints from as high up as the European Commission. The forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and the only nature site in Poland to make the list — “includes the most representative and most important natural habitats for the conservation of biodiversity, including those with endangered species," according to the NGO Puszcza Pracownia.
👨⚖️ But to some in the Polish government, nature conservation is a step for tomorrow, to follow economic growth, and not necessary right now. “In the West, first they built their infrastructure, and then laws to protect nature began to be introduced," said ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) MP Jan Duda. “We — through no fault of our own — have been developing for only 20-odd years and we are forced to (protect the environment) now, taking into account the restrictive environmental protection law." With a so-called “special act," PiS demolished the Białowieża Forest, dividing it in half with a fence, which was protested by several hundred scientists from Europe. The fence divides the forest, people and populations of protected species, threatening their genetic connectivity and biodiversity.
🇵🇱 In March of this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Poland was not doing enough to protect its forests. Less than six months later, Poland has come under fire from activists and environmentalists who claim that Poland is cutting down one of the oldest and last remaining primeval forests in Europe with “lightning speed." The NGO ClientEarth has since filed a complaint to the European Commission about Poland’s alleged illegal harvesting of timber. This follows two previously published reports from 2017 and 2021, respectively, which tried to warn the control authorities about the marketing of illegal wood harvested in the Białowieża Forest and the Carpathian Forest.
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“Making absurd claims does not make other people's territories yours.”
— Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar dismisses a new “standard” map released by China that claims ownership of a territory which Beijing calls South Tibet, but India calls Arunachal Pradesh. Another section of Indian land claimed by China’s map is that of Aksai Chin, which was occupied during the 1962 war. The Minister adds that releasing such maps is “an old habit” of China’s, but that the Indian government is very clear about which territories belong to them.
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Valeria Berghinz and Marine Béguin
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