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Russia’s Partial Pullback, Trudeau’s Emergency Powers, Sand Art Record

A mass wedding organized on Valentine’s Day in Kolkata, India, gathered more than 100 couples from different religions

Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 नमस्ते*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia says it will pull back some of its troops from the Ukraine border, Justin Trudeau invokes emergency powers to quell Ottawa protests, and UAE leaders get immortalized in sand. Meanwhile, Worldcrunch’s Anna Akage analyzes what’s behind whispers that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov could become Russia’s next ruler.

[*Namaste - Nepali]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukraine update: Moscow said it will withdraw some troops from the border of Ukraine to their bases, in what would be the first major step towards de-escalation after weeks of growing fears of a Russian invasion. Intense diplomatic negotiations continue, including a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, while Ukrainian officials express skepticism about Russian plans for pullback.

• Bennett first Israeli PM to visit Bahrain: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Bahrain's capital Manama late on Monday, in the first visit by an Israeli leader to the small Persian Gulf state, which is considered as a proxy for Saudi Arabia.

• Trudeau invokes emergency powers to end Ottawa protests: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked a rarely used emergency act to give his government enhanced authority in an effort to bring the anti-vaccine mandate “Freedom Convoy” protest to an end, after police arrested 11 armed people.

• Russian figure skater Valieva argues mixup with grandfather’s meds: The 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva caught up in a Winter Games doping scandal, says her positive drug test was due to a mix-up with her grandfather’s heart medication, officials said on Tuesday.

• Ethiopian parliament votes to lift state of emergency: Ethiopian lawmakers voted on Tuesday for an early end to a six months long state of emergency enforced in November after rebellious Tigrayan forces threatened to march on Addis Ababa, adding to signs that the bloody conflict may be easing.

• Major banks fund new oil and gas despite net zero pledges: Financial institutions from six countries, including HSBC and Barclays, have channeled more than $1.5 trillion into the coal industry between January 2019 and November 2021. This makes them responsible for over 80% of coal financing and investment, despite net zero pledges, a new analysis has shown.

• Sand art depicting UAE leaders sets Guinness World Record: The Abu Dhabi Sports Aviation Club was awarded the Guinness World Record for largest sand image. The piece of art features the portraits of UAE leaders and covers an area of more than 250,000 square feet (23,000 square meters).

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Canada in a state of emergency for a handful of truckers,” writes Quebec’s daily Le Journal de Montréal as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau activated rarely used emergency powers in an effort to end the “Freedom Convoy” protests that have paralyzed Ottawa’s city center for more than a three weeks.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Could Ramzan Kadyrov be Putin's successor?

The Chechen strongman is reaching outside his native territory to affirm his power, and test his ambitions. At 69, Vladimir Putin shows no signs of settling down, but he won’t live forever.

🤝 Among Vladimir Putin’s infamous neighborhood friends, Ramzan Kadyrov holds a special place. Though Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, and was the source of two bloody separatist wars since the end of the Soviet Union, Kadyrov today enjoys near absolute latitude to run his territory as he sees fit, which is increasingly more brutal and utterly intolerant of opposition voices. And it is this mix of cold-bloodedness, ambition and positioning himself in Putin’s shadow, that has prompted some to begin whispering that Kadyrov could become Russia’s next ruler.

🚨 Such speculation of Kadyrov’s future have amplified in the Russian media since the crackdown last month on the family of Saidi Yangulbayev, a former member of the Chechen Supreme Court. Chechen police traveled to Nizhny Novgorod in Russian territory to apprehend Yangulbayev's wife to bring her back to Chechnya. The fact that the Kremlin turned a blind eye to what happened, despite the fact that the kidnapping took place on Russian territory, is perhaps the most blatant exhibition of Kadyrov’s sway throughout the Russian Federation.

🇷🇺 Kadyrov is in many ways suitable for the continuation of Russia's policy, post-Putin. He declares that he not only acts in the interests of the Chechen Republic, but for the whole of the Russian Federation. His attitude towards the opposition is ruthless, a true believer in a dictatorship. He also believes that Ukraine is Russian land and should be part of the federation. In the absence of a clear successor within Russia proper itself, Kadyrov's future candidacy doesn't look so far-fetched in our crazy reality. Still, the destiny of all is now largely hinging on Ukraine.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

💬  LEXICON

ба́бушка

In the Ukrainian town of Mariupol, older women have formed a “babushka” (grandmothers) battalion to help the city defend itself if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine. The women have taken part in training organized by far-right movement Azov, which includes lessons in weapon shooting, survival and evacuation. But some have volunteered ever since conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014.

📗❌  IN OTHER NEWS

Ethics school text in Germany raises plenty of ethical questions of its own

An ethics book in a German high school asks students how they feel about a Turkish father arranging a marriage between his daughter and nephew, prompting accusations of racism and stereotyping from the Turkish-German community that has long faced discrimination.

Education authorities in the German state of North-Rhein Westfalia (NRW) in the west of the country have pulled the book in question from classrooms after an outcry over the racist hypothetical scenario used as a prompt for students to discuss ethical issues.

The text used in the high school in the town of Siegburg, close to Bonn, reads: "A Turkish father in Germany marries his daughter to his brother's son without the daughter's consent in order to secure the nephew a residence permit for Germany and thus a livelihood.” The assignment went on to ask students to work in pairs to discuss the topic and see what conflicts they see in the situation described.

A tweet by a local lawyer Fatih Zingal first alerted the Turkish community to the content of the lesson, reports the daily Die Welt. Zingal wrote: “Racism has long been in the education system. I don't want to know how many students of Turkish origin have been disadvantaged by these teachers in the past.”

About three million people of Turkish descent live in Germany, making it the largest minority in the country. Many families arrived decades ago as guest workers after World War II and stayed on, although they were not actually able to apply for German citizenship until a reform in 2000. Some 1.5 million residents still lack their citizenship today. Discrimination is commonplace and xenophobic violence remains a threat: four Turkish- and Kurdish-Germans were among the ten victims of a mass shooting in Hanau in 2020.

The Federation of Turkish Parents in NRW wrote an open letter to the head of the local Minister of Education complaining about the discriminating material of the lesson, while also contacting the local school authorities to ask for clarifications.

The school posted a video apologizing, explaining that they had been committed to an anti-racism program for 20 years. “A firestorm swept over our school that hit us hard. We were accused of racism and discrimination,” said the message posted on the school website. “This could give the impression that stereotypes were being deliberately used against a minority here. This is not the case, and it will never be the case.”

That the prompt for the class exercise came from an ethics book only added to the criticism, and the NRW Minister of Education pulled from the text from the school on Monday to re-examine its content.

Germany-based Turkish-language site arti49 contacted the Federation of Turkish Parents in NRW, who said they were unsatisfied with the apology. They were particularly worried about the assignment’s implication of a Turkish family resorting to cheating to gain citizenship illegally.

The association commented: “This type of education method… feeds the vocabulary of far-right populists and helps such stereotypical prejudices be permanent in the minds of the students, leading them to be associated with all families of Turkish origin.”

📣 VERBATIM

I was never against vaccination; but I've always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.

— In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Novak Djokovic’s first since he was detained in Melbourne in January, the world's No. 1 men's tennis player said he would sacrifice taking part in competitions such as Wimbledon and the French Open rather than be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine. The Serbian athlete said he wasn’t against vaccines, but argued the “principles of decision making” on his body were “more important than any title or anything else.” Djokovic was deported from Australia last month as the Australian Open was about to start, after his visa was canceled by the government over his vaccination status.

✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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Coronavirus

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

People walk in Tianzifang, located in Huangpu District, a well-known tourist attraction in Shanghai.

Lili Bai

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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