Welcome to Wednesday, where new clashes erupt on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, European and Asian stocks react to Wall Street crash and there’s a new way to help save whales. Meanwhile, Eleonora Camilli reports for L’Essenziale from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, where the issue of immigration is back under the spotlight as the country prepares for national elections.
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• Putin rejected a peace deal before the war: Three people close to the Kremlin revealed that just before the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24, Vladimir Putin rejected a provisional peace deal with Kyiv. The deal included Russia’s demand that Ukraine not join NATO, but Putin had already decided to annex large parts of Ukraine.
• Russia spent $300 million in political meddling: According to U.S. intelligence, Russia has spent more than $300 million to influence foreign political parties since 2014. Two dozen countries across four continents are said to be concerned by Moscow’s meddling.
• EU to unveil plan to tackle energy crisis: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that in the context of the energy crisis, the EU was discussing price caps and that it would propose measures to force fossil fuel companies to share the profits they make from the rise in energy prices.
• New clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan: New clashes erupted on Wednesday on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing at least 49 Armenian soldiers and 50 Azerbaijani military since the tensions arose on Tuesday. Both sides blame each other for the fighting, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin has appealed for calm.
• Asian, European shares drop after worst day for U.S. stocks since 2020: After U.S. stocks suffered their worst day in more than two years, Asian and European markets were losing ground Wednesday. The British pound, the Japanese yen and the euro have gained ground against the dollar. Tuesday marked the worst day on Wall Street since June 11, 2020, after investors were surprised by hotter-than-expected inflation in August. The Dow was down 1,276 points (or 3.9%) while the Nasdaq Composite fell 5.2%.
• Clinton investigator Kenneth Starr dies: U.S. solicitor general Kenneth Starr, who led the investigation of President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment, died Tuesday at the age of 76. Starr later served in Donald Trump's defense team during his first impeachment.
• Save whales, one lobster roll at a time: California-based Seafood Watch has added American lobster and other species of crab and fish on its red list, meaning it is no longer sustainable to consume them. Fishing practices for harvesting these species risk entangling North Atlantic right whales, whose population has plummeted to 350.
Swiss daily Le Temps pays homage to iconic director Jean-Luc Godard, leading figure of the Nouvelle Vague movement in the 1960s. The filmmaker died Tuesday at the age of 91 by assisted suicide in Switzerland, his longtime residence where the practice is legal. Check out our collection of international front pages, which honored the life and career of a man considered one of the all-time greats of cinema.
100 billion won
South Korea has fined U.S. tech giants Google 69.2 billion won ($50 million) and Facebook parent company Meta 30.8 billion won ($22 million) for violations of privacy laws after finding they had been illegally “collecting and analyzing” data. These are the country’s highest data protection fines ever.
Lampedusa postcard: “invisible” migrants as campaign propaganda
As Italy prepares to vote, migration from Africa is once again a hot topic, even as the number of arrivals is dropping. In L'Essenziale, Eleonora Camilli offers a view from the tiny Italian island that has been at the center of the debate for more than a decade, where the specter of migrants is rolled out as prime election propaganda.
📈 Between January and August 2022, 57,168 migrants arrived by sea in Italy, an increase compared to 2021 (when there were 39,410). But it was a sharp decrease compared to 2016-2017, the years of the greatest influx of refugees to Italy and Europe. Actually, the number of arrivals in August in Lampedusa has been similar to last year: 5,425 arrivals in 176 landings, compared to 5,210 arrivals in 189 landings in 2021. From Aug. 18 to 25, due to strong mistral winds, no one landed. From Aug. 26 on, as sea conditions improved, as many as 40-50 barges a day arrived. This situation again produced overcrowding at the center.
🗳️ Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League party, made a surprise return to Lampedusa on Aug. 31. He had already visited the island earlier in the month to inaugurate his electoral tour. This time, he again toured inside the Contrada Imbriacola center. Following the same pattern as his first visit, he expressed solidarity with the police officers working at the facility, did not speak to the migrants present, but only included them in some video selfies, pointing out that they sleep in cramped conditions and that "they all have cell phones."
🛑 "We do not want Lampedusa to be exploited for electoral purposes. We think the solutions for proper management of arrivals exist. The numbers are not alarming. We have been saying this for a long time: we need quick transfers, including through air bridges so that the facility is not constantly overcrowded," says Giovanni D'Ambrosio, a worker with Mediterranean Hope, the migrant and refugee program of the Federation of Evangelical Churches.
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— In her State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged democracies on the European continent to reinforce democracy, calling the eastern countries "the future of our union." Several Balkan countries have been seeking EU membership since the invasion of Ukraine. The President also announced economic measures to counter the energy crisis and reaffirmed the EU's support to Ukraine. Von der Layon said sanctions against Russia will continue and announced new partnerships to strengthen European values.
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