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In The News

Two Million Refugees, Gas Supply Threat, Mysterious Russian Z

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]


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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• 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.”


“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.



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.


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


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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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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