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Welcome to Wednesday, where a Russian fighter jet collides with U.S. drone over the Black Sea, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan resists arrest, and there’s already a new ChatGPT to talk to. Meanwhile, Roman Kravets and Roman Romanyuk for Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda look back on Putin’s original plans to take over Ukraine, and what foiled them.
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• U.S. accuses Russia of reckless behavior following drone incident: The U.S. has accused Russia of reckless behavior after an American drone crashed into the Black Sea following an encounter with Russian fighter jets. Before the collision, Russian jets were reported to have dumped fuel into the path of the drone that the U.S. says was in international airspace. Russia has denied its two Su-27 fighter jets made any contact.
• Pakistan’s Imran Khan defiant after arrest attempt: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appeared publicly outside his home, greeting supporters following violent clashes after police reportedly tried to arrest him. Khan, who was ousted as prime minister last April, faces graft allegations, which he says are politically motivated. The arrest attempt sparked violent clashes between Khan supporters and police near his home in Lahore.
• Blinken in Ethiopia: U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Ethiopian officials Wednesday, in an effort to support the peace process in the country struggling to recover from a brutal civil war that ended two years ago.
• Strikes continue in France over pensions reforms, as garbage keeps piling up: France’s highly contested pension reform is entering its final stretch in Parliament, while trash piles up as sanitation worker strikes are moving into their second week and creating a potential health risk in Paris.
• Chinese doctor who exposed China's Sars cover-up dies: Jiang Yanyong, who exposed China’s cover up of the SARS epidemic in 2003, has died at 91. At the time of the 2003 outbreak, Yanyong was a doctor in Beijing military hospital, and revealed the existence of hundreds of previously hidden cases.
• Stocks under pressure in Europe: Europe’s bank stocks sank further Thursday led by an 18% drop in Swiss lender Suisse Credit as worries continue to spread following Silicon Valley Bank's collapse. Meanwhile, the fallout from the closure of three U.S. banks has made it difficult for analysts to determine a fair valuation of stocks as volatility in the U.S. bond government market reaches its highest level in 15 years.
• OpenAI unveils ChatGPT successor: OpenAI has released GPT-4, the latest version of its popular AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT. The new model can now respond to images, providing recipe suggestions from photos of ingredients as well as writing captions and descriptions. It can also process up to 25,000 words, about eight times as many as ChatGPT. First testing has impressed users, though the chatbot still sometimes produces blatantly false information.
Argentine daily El Dia is reporting on the staggering 102.5% inflation in the country, a record high since the last hyperinflation ended in the early 1990s. The price of consumer goods has more than doubled since 2022, making it increasingly difficult for the poorer sectors of the population to acquire basic necessities.
A new study by the international Global Alliance on Health and Pollution network found that only 13 countries and territories in the world had “healthy” air quality in 2022: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Vatican City. These countries have relatively small populations and/or low levels of industrial pollution. The report also found air pollution caused approximately 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2022, with 70% of those deaths occurring in India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, the United States, Russia, Egypt, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
First we'll take Kyiv: Inside Putin's original plans to occupy Ukraine
If Russia's invasion of Ukraine hadn't gone so badly, the Kremlin had two possible plans for governing the country under the Russian flag, write Roman Kravets and Roman Romanyuk for Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda.
🇷🇺🇺🇦 For Russia, it was simple: if Kyiv surrendered, Moscow would rule everything. That was what mattered. Although plans were not set in stone, Moscow still had two options in its playbook. The first plan was thought to involve Putin's closest ally in Ukraine: his friend Viktor Medvedchuk. Putin is the godfather of Medvedchuk's daughter. Medvedchuk was the main negotiator with the Kremlin and played a key role in prisoner exchanges under former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who was defeated in the 2014 election.
⚖️ But after Zelensky took office, the head of the president’s office Andriy Yermak took over this responsibility, and Medvedchuk was placed under investigation by Ukrainian police. At the beginning of 2022, Medvedchuk, then a member of parliament, was under house arrest in Kyiv on suspicion of treason. He had hoped to get back into politics, but after questions were raised about his integrity, and with the introduction of sanctions, he was out of business and politics.
❌ Another option was former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. “After Medvedchuk’s disappearance, the Russians really considered the option of Yanukovych's return to Ukraine. He could have announced again that he was legitimate,” a source with the Ukrainian Security Service said. But the situation at the front unfolded rapidly and unexpectedly for Moscow, and it became obvious that things would not work out with Yanukovych either.
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“Do not fall into China's trap.”
— Honduras, one of only 14 remaining countries to have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, was warned Wednesday by Taiwan’s foreign ministry that it should not make the switch to recognizing China in its place. China's foreign ministry welcomed an earlier statement by Honduran President Xiomara Castro that appeared to indicate it might switch diplomatic recognition, with Beijing expressing its wish to develop "friendly and cooperative relations" with the Central American country. Taiwan has lost eight diplomatic allies since 2016.
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