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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.

[*Hungarian]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• 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.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“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.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€96

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.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

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

📣 VERBATIM

“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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Geopolitics

Why Sudan's Conflict Makes The Gulf Monarchies So Nervous

Located on the shore of the Red Sea, rich in natural resources, Sudan is strategically important to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Worried about a conflict that is getting bogged down, Arab capitals are mobilizing behind the scenes, with initial "pre-negotiation" talks beginning Saturday in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.

Why Sudan's Conflict Makes The Gulf Monarchies So Nervous

During evacuations on April 29 from Sudan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Press Agency/APA Images via ZUMA
Laura-Maï Gaveriaux

DUBAI – The war of the Sudanese generals has both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi worried — and there is no sign that the crisis in Sudan will end soon.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia was hosting the first face-to-face "pre-negotiation talks" between between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the port city of Jeddah, across the Red Sea from coast of Sudan coast.

The African nation is of strategic importance to the Gulf powers, which are ensuring a diplomatic but also economic presence there. That has increased notably since 2017, after the lifting of the decade-long, U.S.-led embargo on the Islamist regime of Omar al-Bashir accused of supporting international terrorism. Since then, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been investing massively in the country, particularly in infrastructure and agriculture.

With its fertile lands, and a rainy season that benefits at least half of the country, Sudan offers agricultural potential for the countries of the neighboring desert peninsula, which have planned to make it "the breadbasket of the Gulf."

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