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Photo of a Ukrainian soldier standing in the rubble of a major food storage facility

A Ukrainian soldier stands in the rubble of a major food storage facility

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Dydh da!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Western leaders share their skepticism after Moscow promises to scale back its offensive in Ukraine, Israel is rocked by a third terror attack in eight days, and Pluto may host ice volcanoes (and a hidden ocean). Meanwhile, Persian-language media Kayhan-London looks at Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards and the role they may play in helping revive the country’s nuclear deal.

[*Cornish, UK]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Russia to curtail military operations in two areas, skepticism from the West: Russia has announced it will drastically decrease military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv after supposedly progressive peace talks with Ukraine. The West remains skeptical, with Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian military leaders expressing doubt as reports of fresh attacks on Chernihiv emerge. A total of 10 million people have left their homes since the start of the violence: more than 4 million have fled to neighboring countries, and another 6.5 million are displaced within the country itself.

EU countries expel Russian diplomats: Belgium, Poland, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have all announced they are expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on espionage grounds.

Five dead after another attack in Israel: A gunman opened fire in Bnei Brak late Tuesday, killing five people. The suspect was identified as a 26-year-old Palestinian man who was shot on the scene, though no Palestinian groups have taken responsibility for the attack. This marks the country’s third deadly attack in eight days.

COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Asia: The Omicron variant has caused cases in Asia to surpass 100 million, accounting for 21% of all reported coronavirus cases.

World Bank freezes projects in Afghanistan: The World Bank has suspended four projects in Afghanistan valued at $600 million after the Taliban reversed their decision to reopen secondary schools for girls. The projects, which were developed to help improve education, health, agriculture and livelihoods, are paused indefinitely until the World Bank is certain that the projects’ goals will be met.

Brazil sets World Cup record: With a 4-0 win against Bolivia, and a total of 45 points, Brazil has broken the World Cup qualifying points record. The record was previously held by Argentina who qualified for the 2002 World Cup with the record total of 43 points.

Pluto’s ice volcanoes: Scientists believe that they have seen evidence of ice volcanoes on Pluto, suggesting the presence of an underground ocean on the dwarf planet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Israeli daily Israel Hayom devotes its front page to the attack that left five people dead in central Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv. According to local media, the attacker — who was shot dead by the police — was a 26-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held an emergency security meeting following the attack, the third of its kind in eight days.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$40,504,200

A former administrator of Yale University's School of Medicine pleaded guilty in federal court on two counts of wire fraud and a tax offense for single handedly stealing an estimated $40,504,200 worth of computers and iPads from the prestigious U.S. school, in a scheme spanning over nine years.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Will Iran's Revolutionary Guards make a “sacrifice” to help seal nuclear deal?

A dispute between Iran's foreign minister and a leading regime hardliner over whether to insist on removing the Islamic paramilitary from the "terrorist" list indicates divisions in the Islamic Republic over what kind of nuclear deal it wants with the West, reports Persian-language media Kayhan-London.

🎖️ It has been a sticking point in the negotiations to revive the 2015 pact regulating Iran's nuclear program: Tehran had insisted that the Revolutionary Guards, the elite military unit founded by Ayatollah Khomeini, be taken off the list of global terrorist groups. But recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian suggested the regime may not insist on the West removing the Guards from the sanctioned list, with the powerful military wing's willingness to make a "sacrifice" for the state's interests and "selflessly" aid talks to revive the pact and help end crippling sanctions on Iran.

⚠️ But one arch-conservative in Iran, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Tehran paper Kayhan (not affiliated with Kayhan London) and said to be close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, says the minister's claims were so implausible that there must have been a misunderstanding. Iran's Foreign Minister told state television on March 26 that the Revolutionary guards were the regime's "most important security and defensive sector" and that their role and legal status must be recognized abroad.

➗ The debate indicates divisions inside the regime, which have existed for several years, on what a pact with the West should include. Can the regime negotiate over what it deems to be vital activities — like meddling in the region to reshape its politics, backing Shia militias, or running a ballistic missiles program?

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

If you want gas, find rubles.

— Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, said in a post on Telegram, after the country’s government announced it was working on practical arrangements for natural gas to be paid in Russian currency, as a response to the West’s sanctions. Europe has so far refused to pay for gas in rubles and this payment stand-off with Russia has prompted Germany to declare an “early warning” over possible gas supply disruption.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger


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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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