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Kremlin Pessimism, BoJo’s Toast, Airbnb Leaves China

A man walks on a tank left behind by Russian troops, on display in Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square.

Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Tuesday, which marks three months since the war in Ukraine started. Meanwhile, BoJo is in trouble again, and millionaires at Davos ask to be taxed more. Persian-language, London-based media Kayhan explores what the future of Lebanon could look like after the election defeat of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

[*Swedish]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Kremlin pessimism prevails: Three months since the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, pessimism prevails in Russia, as government sources report that even more limited ambitions to take the Donbas territory have stalled.

• Russia deploys missiles in Belarus: Russian troops have deployed Iskander-M tactical missile systems in Belarus, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Ukraine's border, and are strengthening their positions near the Russian-Ukrainian border.

— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 90

• Biden ends Asia tour with Quad summit: On the final day of his Asia tour, Joe Biden met with the leaders of the Quad, the alliance between the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, which Beijing criticized as being “an Indo-Pacific NATO”. The summit comes after the U.S. president warned China that he would intervene if it invaded Taiwan.

• Millionaires at Davos ask to pay higher taxes: As political and business leaders gather in Davos for the first World Economic Forum since the beginning of the pandemic, a handful of millionaires have asked world leaders to address the rampant wealth inequalities by imposing higher taxes on the richest.

• Armenia and Azerbaijan in peace talks: Armenia and Azerbaijan leaders have announced that they have set up a border commission to deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. This mountainous territory, located inside Azerbaijan, has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the 1990s, sparking 30-year long tensions that erupted into a six-week war in 2020.

• Russian court rejects Navalny’s appeal: Moscow City Court has rejected Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s appeal against a nine-year prison sentence he faces for embezzlement and court contempt. The prominent opposition figure has denied the allegations, which he says are politically motivated.

• Airbnb to leave China amid lockdown: Vacation rentals company Airbnb is set to close all its homestay locations in China by summer due to the country’s zero-COVID policy. The harsh lockdown conditions imposed by Beijing have made it difficult for the platform to expand in the country.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

The Daily Telegraph’s frontpage features one of the newly leaked pictures of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shown raising a toast during a lockdown party held at 10, Downing Street, as part of the “Partygate” scandal.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

579

A new report by human rights group Amnesty International reveals that the number of executions increased by 20% globally last year, with at least 579 people killed by states that retain capital punishment. The report shows spikes in Iran and Saudi Arabia, while noting that the use of the death penalty in China, Vietnam and North Korea is difficult to assess. However, 2021 marks an all-time low for the number of countries applying the capital punishment: 18 in total.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Has Lebanese politics finally freed itself of Iran’s influence?

Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But as Ahmad Ra'fat asks in London-based, Persian-language daily Kayhan: Will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?

🇱🇧 The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats). One of the big winners were the Lebanese Forces, the anti-Hezbollah Christian party, led by the former warlord Samir Geagea. Certain important Christian or Druze personalities backed by Hezbollah even lost seats.

🇮🇷 Hezbollah's downfall is a major defeat for Iran, which may also fail to put one of its friends as president in elections scheduled in October. It seems unlikely Aoun's successor will be another Christian friendly to the Islamic Republic, and he (or she) may well be a Christian from the opposition. That will constitute a second step after these elections in curbing the Islamic Republic's influence in Lebanon.

🗳️ But the next parliament faces uncertainty, firstly in its bid to forge a working majority. There are 12 independent deputies (when only five or six were expected to win seats) known for their past criticisms of the entire political system. As former protest leaders, they invited the Lebanese to vote their way out of their many problems. These deputies will have a crucial role in forging the 65-seat majority for one or another of the big groups.

☝️ The first sign of their intentions will be in the election of the parliamentary speaker, which according to set rules, must be a Shia Muslim. Since 1992, the head of the Amal party beholden to Tehran, Nabih Berri, has held the post. Will the independents side with the Christian Party's Geagea to prevent his reelection? Will they also vote with it to form the first government in years without a member of Hezbollah?

Read the full article on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

Never have I been so ashamed of my country.

Russian UN diplomat Boris Bondarev handed in his resignation to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, criticizing in a public statement Russia’s policy. The 20-year-veteran added “Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is all about warmongering, lies and hatred.”

✍️ Newsletter by Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Bertrand Hauger


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