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Russia Escalates, Earthquake Toll Passes 20,000, Red Light For Dutch Weed

Russia Escalates, Earthquake Toll Passes 20,000, Red Light For Dutch Weed

Firefighters put out a blaze at an energy facility in eastern Ukraine, after Russia launched a series of attacks Friday morning on infrastructure in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia.

VVoytsitska via Twitter
Emma Albright, Renate Mattar, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Elo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Russia steps up its new assault on eastern Ukraine, the death toll in Monday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria passes 20,000, and Amsterdam puts out reefer in its Red Light district. Meanwhile, Chinese-language media The Initium analyzes the popularity of Estonia’s e-residency scheme among Chinese digital entrepreneurs.

[*Tetum, Timor-Leste]


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• Russia steps up new offensive in eastern Ukraine: Russia launched a wave of attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure in the cities of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia on Friday morning. At least 17 missiles hit Zaporizhzhia, electricity supplies have been shut down. Air raid sirens continue to ring across the country as local officials are urging civilians to take shelter.

• U.S. pledges $85 million in aid for earthquake: The top humanitarian aid agency in the U.S. government has pledged $85 million in aid for earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. The funding will go towards shelter, food, water and healthcare. This comes as countries around the world are sending search crews and more aid to the region where the death toll has now topped 20,000. — See here for a devastating image from the quake: This Happened, Photo of the Week.

• South Africa declares state of disaster on power: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a state of disaster to deal with the country’s severe electricity crisis which has included prolonged daily power blackouts. The declaration will enable the government to exempt essential services like hospitals and water treatment plants from power blackouts and enable the government to buy additional power from neighboring countries on an emergency basis.

• Lula to meet Biden at White House: Brazil’s President Lula da Silva will meet U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday for the first time since Lula’s reelection. The visit will focus on support for Brazilian democracy and shared environmental commitments.

• Nicaragua opposition leaders deported to U.S.: Nicaragua has released 222 of the 245 opposition prisoners it was holding. The prisoners, critics of President Daniel Ortega, were deported to the United States. The U.S. State Department welcomed the move, and said it had been made “unilaterally” by the Nicaraguan government.

• Amsterdam bans cannabis in its red light district: It will soon be illegal to smoke cannabis in the street of Amsterdam’s red light district according to a new city regulation. The laws will come into effect from mid-May and aim to improve liveability for residents who have long complained of disruption caused by tourists.

• Burt Bacharach dies at 94: The songwriter behind dozens or hits from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, Burt Bacarach, has died at age 94. Over his long career Bacharach earned almost every major award in music, including six Grammys, three Oscars and, with Hal David, the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded by the Library of Congress.


De Volkskrant is having a Putin-themed cup of cappuccino on its front page, as the Amsterdam-based daily reports on the Dutch companies that “continue to earn in Russia.” Although many left the country following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Brewery Bavaria keeps selling beer, Philips keeps selling razors, and JDE Peets keeps selling coffee in Russia, de Volkskrant writes.



SpaceX's Starship rocket took a giant leap toward its first orbital test flight, expected as early as next month. A prototype of the fully-reusable, 120-meter (394 ft) tall vehicle successfully ignited 31 of its 33 engines during a test in southern Texas. “Team turned off 1 engine just before start & 1 stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall. But still enough engines to reach orbit!” tweeted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In a previous tweet, the eccentric billionaire (and Twitter owner) wrote that “One day, Starship will take us to Mars.”


Why Estonia's EU “digital residency” is getting popular in China — and Taiwan

An Estonian e-residency that gives holders access to the country's government services and business networks has growing takeup in both mainland China and Taiwan. For both business and political reasons, reports Youyou Zhou in Chinese-language digital media The Initium.

🇪🇪🛃 A hundred euros is not a big deal for many. But if you could buy a residency of an EU country for that price, would you go for it? This is the "E-Residency of Estonia". It is not a real resident status. The holder does not have residency in Estonia and is not exempt from visas, but the card allows the holder to connect remotely to Estonia's government and business networks and enjoy services such as opening a bank account and forming a company.

🇨🇳 China is the fifth largest importer of digital residents after Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Finland, and the number one non-European country. Most of the digital residents from China do not live in Estonia and have never even set foot in the former Soviet republic, now an EU member state. According to the project's official statistics, for every 100 digital residents, 24 would register an Estonian company; for every 100 digital residents of Chinese origin, only eight would do so.

💲 The average age of applicants from mainland China is 34 years, which is younger than most other countries. They have experienced China's economic take-off after the reform and opening up, as well as the building of a capital market from scratch, which is similar to the establishment and growth of the young republic of Estonia. This coincides with many applicants who want to escape the old order.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“A Ukraine that is winning is going to be a member of the European Union.”

— During his speech yesterday in front of European leaders gathered in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski launched “an emotional appeal for European membership”, arguing that the European bloc wouldn’t be complete without Ukraine. The Associated Press reportedly obtained a draft of the summit’s conclusions, which states that “the European Union will stand by Ukraine with steadfast support for as long as it takes.”

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Renate Mattar, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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Xi Jinping's Mission In Moscow, And The Limits Of The Russia-China Alliance

As Xi's closely watched visit to Moscow begins, China and Russia may seem like strategic partners, but it has ultimately shown to be a marriage of convenience. And both countries are naturally competitors, wary if the other grows stronger.

Photo of ​Chinese President Xi Jinping walking past Russian soldiers as he lands in Moscow on March 20

Chinese President Xi Jinping landing in Moscow on March 20

Petro Shevchenko

This article has been updated March 20, 12:00 p.m. CST


Long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were growing closer. China’s goal? To revamp the current world order, significantly weaken the West and its leaders, and to become the world-dominating figurehead over and above the United States.

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Russia’s war in Ukraine has become an essential element of this plan to destabilize the global situation.

When the West began imposing stringent sanctions on Russia, China instead chose to economically support Putin and left its markets open to accept raw materials from Russia. But don’t think this means China is Putin’s lapdog. Quite the contrary: Beijing has never helped Moscow to its own detriment, not wishing to fall under the punitive measures of the U.S. and Europe.

The fundamental dynamic has not changed ahead of Xi Jinping's arrival on Monday for his first visit to Moscow since the war began. Beyond the photo ops and pleasant words that Xi and Putin are sure to share, the Russian-Chinese alliance continues to be looked at skeptically amongst the elite in both Beijing and Moscow.

China was not expecting Russia’s plans to occupy Ukraine in a matter of days to fail and as a result, China’s aim to destabilize the West alongside its Russian partner failed.

Add to this the various alliances in the West emerging against Beijing and fears for China’s economy on home turf is beginning to grow.

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