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Ukraine Counterattacks, 300 Feared Dead In Mariupol Theater, Tree Of The Year

Photo of a Ukrainian soldier holding a holy cross with the name of a fellow fighter who was killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine at a funeral ceremony in Lviv

A Ukrainian soldier holds a holy cross at a funeral ceremony in Lviv

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Friday, where Ukraine authorities say up to 300 may have been killed in the March 13 bombing of Mariupol theater. Meanwhile, the U.S. and EU announce a deal to try and cut Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, and Russia sanctions have ripples in space. We also focus on the work of Ukrainian war photographer Maks Levin, who has been missing for 12 days.

[*Aymara - Bolivia]


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Ukraine counterattacks, NATO new commitments: Ukraine regains some towns around Kyiv including Makariv. Another Mariupol evacuation corridor is planned after multiple failed attempts. Authorities fear that 300 people may have been killed in the March 16 bombing of the Mariupol theater. Meanwhile, NATO confirmed that it will send 40,000 troops to Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania — and commits to a plan to respond in the case of the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Biden to meet Ukrainian refugees: U.S. president Joe Biden heads to the Polish-Ukrainian border to meet with Ukrainian refugees, U.S. troops and aid workers. Biden also called on Russia to be removed from the G20 major economies.

EU signs U.S. gas deal: The U.S. and EU have announced a deal that attempts to curb Europe’s reliance on Russian energy since Russia currently supplies 40% of the EU’s gas. Through the deal, the U.S. and other nations will increase gas exports by 15 billion cubic meters this year.

Solomon Islands drafts security deal with China: The Solomon Islands confirms that it is drafting a security deal with China that could lead to a Chinese military base on one of its islands north of Australia. This has alarmed Australia, New Zealand and other neighboring Western allies.

Ethiopia declares Tigray truce: Ethiopia declares a “humanitarian truce” with rebel Tigray forces in order to allow aid into the region. About 5 million people in the Tigray region have been facing starvation due to the 16-month war between the government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Great Barrier Reef hit by mass bleaching event: The Great Barrier Reef suffers yet another mass bleaching event. Out of 750 separate reefs surveyed last week, 60% of the corals have experienced severe bleaching.

Tree of the year (with political roots): A 400-year-old oak tree from Poland wins European Tree of the Year after Russia’s candidate was disqualified.


Italian sport daily La Gazzetta dello Sport devotes its front page to the Italian national soccer team’s shock elimination from the World Cup qualifications, after losing 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in their playoff semi-final. It is the second time in a row that the squadra azzurra, who won the 2020 European Championship, misses out on the World Cup qualification.


$7 billion

Spotify’s Loud and Clear website, which was launched last year with the goal of “increased transparency” around its payments, has revealed the streaming platform has paid more than $7 billion to music industry rights holders in 2021, up from $5 billion in 2020. This accounts for almost 25% of the industry's total revenues and is “the largest sum paid by one retailer to the music industry in one year in history,” according to Spotify. The streaming service’s low payments to artists themselves have been criticized in recent years: according to Insider, artists are paid between $.003 and $.005 per stream.


Acclaimed Ukrainian photographer Maks Levin hasn’t been seen since March 13

The veteran photojournalist was covering the Russian invasion north of Kyiv, after spending years chronicling Ukraine’s longstanding battles in its eastern regions against pro-Russian separatists.

⚠️ Maks Levin, a leading Ukrainian combat photographer and documentary filmmaker, has disappeared while covering the war north of Kyiv. Levin, 41, last made contact on March 13 while working in an active combat zone. It later became known that in the area where Levin was working, intense combat operations began, and colleagues fear he may have been injured or captured by Russian troops.

📸 First coming to conflict photography during the Maidan Revolution in 2013, Levin went on to cover the annexation of Crimea, occupation of Donbas, survived the Ilovaysk Cauldron, the bloodiest and cruelest battle of the entire occupation of the region. Together with his friend and colleague Markiyan Lyseyko, he established a large documentary project Afterilovaisk, where for eight years they collected information, photos, videos, and audio recordings of the fighters and volunteers who died in the Ilovaysk Cauldron.

💥 Maks Levin has four sons and is also the founder of the paternity club Men's Rights Ukraine. Like many Ukrainian-based photographers and journalists, his work is a reminder for the world that Russia's "silent" war against Ukraine has actually been going on for eight years in the eastern regions of the country.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We consider further cooperation impossible.

— Russia's Roscosmos space agency Director General Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview on Chinese television that "after the European Space Agency and the whole European Union have taken a frenzied position on the conduct of the special military operation in Ukraine and introduced sanctions against Roscosmos, we consider further cooperation impossible." This means, among other things, that Russian rockets will no longer be used to launch European satellites, but instead go to Russian companies or from countries considered allies to Putin’s government.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger

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Russian Nukes In Belarus: Lessons From Putin's Cheapest Blackmail Yet

Of course Russia's announcement of moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus should not be underestimated. But the reality is that, since the beginning of the invasion, Russia's nuclear situation has not changed. We should instead look hard at where both Minsk and Beijing have wound up.

Photo of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko at the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus.

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko at the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — It's yet another episode of atomic blackmail: Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again raised the threat of nuclear weapons announcing that some tactical nuclear weapons — "small" bombs intended for use on the battlefield — will be moved to Belarus.

The silos are not expected to be finished before July, Putin says — so the threat is not immediate. But this announcement is already causing a stir, as has happened every time over the past year when Moscow has raised the threat of nuclear apocalypse. Why does Putin continue to play this card?

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First, it's important to note that Putin is not afraid of self-contradiction. The day before the Belarus announcement, he signed a declaration with Chinese leader Xi Jinping stating that "nuclear powers should not deploy nuclear weapons outside their territory." Putin could point out that Americans are doing exactly that in some NATO countries, but the contradiction still says a lot about the limits of Russian commitments.

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