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In The News

Xi & Putin’s New World Order, More “Partygate” Evidence, Bali New Year

Photo of a Javanese Hindus parade in front of temples in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as part of new year’s eve celebrations in Bali.

Javanese Hindus parade in front of temples in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as part of new year’s eve celebrations in Bali.

Hugo Perrin, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger, Ginevra Falciani

👋 Sziasztok!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Xi Jinping leaves Moscow after pledging to “shape a new world order” with Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson’s “Partygate” hearing opens and Google rolls out its Bard chatbot. Meanwhile, Anna Akage surveys experts on the likelihood that the Russian president is using a doppelgänger for public appearances.



This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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• Russian drones swarm Kyiv in display of force as Xi leaves Moscow: Russia launched a swarm of drones into Ukraine overnight, killing at least four people near Kyiv in a display of force as China's President Xi Jinping left Moscow with promises of friendship but little public mention of the war. The Ukranian military said it had shot down 16 of 21 Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones.

• Ukraine clinches first IMF loan to nation at war: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it has reached an agreement with Ukraine on funding worth $15.6 billion (£12.8bn). This is the first loan to a country at war by the organization, which has changed a rule to allow loans to countries facing "exceptionally high uncertainty."

• More Partygate evidence published as Boris Johnson prepares to face inquiry: More evidence has been published by a panel investigating statements made by former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament about the Partygate scandal concerning alleged illegal gatherings of government and Conservative Party staff held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Earthquake rocks Pakistan and Afghanistan: At least 12 people have been killed and more than 200 injured after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake shook large parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday evening. Tremors from the remote Jurm valley in northeastern Afghanistan were felt as far away as India.

• Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law bans identification as LGBTQ: Uganda’s parliament has passed sweeping anti-gay legislation that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relationships and criminalizes anyone identifying as LGBTQ+. Punishments include life in prison for gay sex, and death for so-called “aggravated” homosexuality, which includes gay sex with people under 18 years old or being HIV-positive.

• UN warns against 'vampiric' global water use: A United Nations report has warned of a looming global water crisis and an "imminent risk" of shortages due to "vampiric overconsumption and overdevelopment" and climate change. Its publication comes before the first major UN water summit since 1977, a three-day gathering in New York that begins Wednesday.

• Google begins rolling out ChatGPT rival: Google has opened up limited access to Bard, its new AI chatbot tool that directly competes with ChatGPT. Users can join a waitlist to gain access to Bard, which promises to help users outline and write essay drafts, plan a friend’s baby shower, and get lunch ideas based on what’s in the fridge.


“Europe on dry land,” titles Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung, featuring a photo of beached gondolas in Venice, Italy, amid new reports on the winter drought threatening southern and western Europe.



From September 2023, primary schools in the Republic of Ireland will receive €96 ($104) for each pupil to pay for textbooks and other materials as part of a €50-million government scheme to relieve parents from the costs of school supplies. The grant is expected to benefit more than 558,000 children and their families.


That man in Mariupol: Is Putin using a body double to avoid public appearances?

Putin really met with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelgänger for meetings and appearances.

👥 Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

🤝 Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian opposition writer and analyst, believes Putin has used doubles for smaller meetings and at some public appearances, although he shows up in person for meetings with country leaders or to deliver speeches. He’s sure Putin would never "would never humiliate" Xi Jinping by sending a look-alike to meet with the Chinese leader. But that’s not the case in Ukraine, he says: "In Mariupol, it wasn't Putin. He has all sorts of look-alikes.”

📸 “If you are a dictator hated by many people both inside and outside the country, you're being hunted, you live in a bunker and ride an armored train, you'll want look-alikes,” Russian journalist Michael Nacke says. The use of body doubles fits the classic portrait of the paranoid dictator — and becomes an absurd, darkly humorous detail when, as they did this week, observers compare photos of Putin, looking at the shape of his chin and jowls to figure out if the man pictured is the real deal or an impersonator.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“The U.S. actually started the Ukraine war.”

During a speech in Mashhad, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused Washington of intentionally starting the conflict in Ukraine, namely to create “the grounds for this war to expand NATO in the east.” Khamenei added that “weapons manufacturing companies in the U.S. are reaping the benefits, so they won’t go along with ending the war.”

✍️ Newsletter by Hugo Perrin, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Ginevra Falciani

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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