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Two Million Refugees, Gas Supply Threat, Mysterious Russian Z

Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish a fire at an oil depot in Zhytomyr, following airstrikes by Russian forces

Bertrand Hauger, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where civilians are being evacuated from besieged Ukraine areas along humanitarian corridors as the refugee total reaches two million, Putin threatens to cut off gas supplies and a Sri Lankan elephant gets a state funeral. Also, Swedish writer Carl-Johan Karlsson explores how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled the Nordic debate over the possibility of joining NATO, at risk of provoking Putin.

[*Tagalog, Philippines]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Evacuations from besieged areas in Ukraine: Civilians are being evacuated from the besieged areas of Irpin, a town near Kyiv which has seen heavy fighting in recent days, as well as from the northeastern city of Sumy, after Ukraine and Russia agreed to organize a humanitarian corridor and establish a ceasefire until 9 p.m. local time tonight. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has topped two million. The World Bank announced a $723 million emergency financing package of loans and grants for Ukraine.

• Russia threatens to cut gas supplies if West bans oil imports: Russia warned it could close its main pipeline to Germany and that oil prices could top $300 per barrel if the West goes ahead with a ban on Russian oil. The U.S. is exploring a potential ban with its European allies as a way of punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but Germany and the Netherlands rejected the plan.

• Construction spotted by satellite on North Korea nuclear test site: Satellite images show construction work has started at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for the first time since it was shut in 2018, after North Korea promised to halt all nuclear tests.

• 9/11 suspect sent back to Saudi Arabia for mental health care: Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani, who was detained for two decades at Guantanamo Bay after he was accused of attempting to join hijackers in carrying out the 9/11 attacks, has been repatriated to his home country of Saudi Arabia for mental health treatment. The 46-year-old man was subjected to torture and left behind bars despite charges against him being dropped in 2008.

• Two dead and thousands evacuated after floods in Sydney: Tens of thousands of Sydney residents were evacuated and two people were found dead as flash floods inundated swaths of Australia’s largest city. The country’s death toll from the week-long east coast floods has risen to 21.

• Study identifies Amazon rainforest “tipping point”: Data shows the Amazon rainforest is moving towards a critical “tipping point” and losing its ability to recover from droughts, fires and deforestation, leading to a “mass loss of trees” and an irreversible transition to savannah.

• Sri Lanka to hold state funeral for sacred elephant: Nadungamuwa Vijaya Raja, popularly known as Raja, Sri Lanka’s most sacred elephant which died at 68 years old, will be given full state honors for his funeral, and his remains will be preserved for “future generations.”

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Putin’s symbol of horror,” titles Slovak daily Dennik, featuring the letter Z which has become a symbol of support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, after it was seen hand painted on Russian tanks and military trucks. Now pro-Kremlin athletes, politicians and protesters are also using the symbol, whose origins remain mysterious as the letter Z does not exist in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet.

💬  LEXICON

Sprakkar

Plural noun meaning extraordinary or outstanding women in ancient Icelandic (pronounced: sprah-car). It is used today to describe women in leadership roles in Icelandic society. Iceland is often seen as the cradle of the fight for gender equality, home to the first and now legendary “Women’s Day Off” in October 1975. That day, 90% of Iceland's women did not show up to their jobs and refused to take part in unpaid labor in the home.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Does NATO deter or provoke Russia? Look to Finland and Sweden for the answer

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled the Nordic debate over the possibility of joining NATO, prompting Russian threats. It's a microcosm for the conflict itself.

📈 A national poll published two days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that for the first time, more Swedes are in favor of a NATO membership than against, with a 41% majority pitted against a 35% opposition. In Finland too, a survey by broadcaster Yle found that a record 53% of Finns support their country joining NATO. This figure goes up to 66% if neighboring Sweden were also to join. To give an idea of the drastic change, only 19% of Finns supported NATO membership in 2017.

⚖️ Today, Swedes and Finns are looking at Ukraine and thinking, that could be us, and all the assault rifles and anti-tank support in Europe wouldn’t be enough to save us. So today, the Nordic duo might answer Russia’s threat: What choice have you left us? If Russia’s aggression remains contained to Ukraine, Sweden and Finland will eventually still have to weigh the risk of a NATO membership inciting Putin against, well, Putin not even needing to be incited.

🔍 The current dilemma of Finland and Sweden is emblematic of the perennial question of whether NATO has deterred Russian aggression, or fueled it. While the final answer to that question is unknowable, more time should be spent investigating the history which has brought us to where we are today. If we make it out of this crisis without the outbreak of a wider conflict, part of the calculus for how to restore and maintain peace should include a reassessment of what Trans-Atlantic solidarity should mean in practice, and whether permanent military alliances are in fact serving our best interests, or have become an end in themselves.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We are acutely aware that our decision last week ... was not the right one and we are sorry.

— Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden apologized for the oil company’s decision to buy Russian crude oil last week and said it would withdraw completely from any involvement in Russian hydrocarbons over the country's invasion of Ukraine. Of all the energy majors, only France’s TotalEnergies has so far decided to stay active in Russia.

✍️ Newsletter by Bertrand Hauger, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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The Many Paradoxes Of Cuba's Eternal Milk Shortages

Milk shortages are not new in Cuba, where the state pays producers less for their milk of what they can gain by selling it on the black market.

A young girl drinks milk inside her home in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sadiel Mederos Bermudez

HAVANA — "There is no milk" ceased to be a repeated phrase on the island, because everyone knows it and, probably, by now they have resigned themselves.

Children under seven and the elderly with medical diets don’t receive it with the necessary frequency, even if they are the only sectors of the population with the right to acquire it through a government subsidy.

Because there simply is no milk in Cuba.

The rest of Cubans must buy it in stores in freely convertible currency (MLC). However, powdered or fluid milk hasn't been available in stores in MLC for months. Last time, at the beginning of the year, the price of a bag of 1 to 1.2 kilograms was between 6 and 8 MLC ($6-8).

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