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Zelensky Blasts Schroeder, Lobbies Xi In New Push To Maximize Support

Zelensky Blasts Schroeder, Lobbies Xi In New Push To Maximize Support
Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has focused his diplomatic efforts on Germany and China, two nations that remain key to the balance of power in the war in Ukraine. In different ways the two powerhouse countries have been less than clear where they stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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In what was a clear reference to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s recent visit to Russia, Zelensky said in his nightly address on Wednesday that “it is simply disgusting when former leaders of powerful states with European values work for Russia, which is fighting against these values.”

Schroeder, who has longstanding business ties to Russia, revealed Wednesday that he’d again met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month and discussed possible negotiations to end the war. Meanwhile, current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also a source of concern for Kyiv, as Berlin appears increasingly worried about having access to Russian gas supplies. Scholz is eager to return a repaired Nord Stream 1 turbine to Russia in order to ensure gas arrives in Germany for the winter. Russia’s Gazprom has refused to take back the turbine that is part of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Russia is accused of cutting gas supplies via Nord Stream to blackmail and intimidate Europe.

Zelensky’s attention is also turned this week towards China. In an interview with South China Morning Post, the Ukrainian President said he has been asking for a direct conversation with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping since the start of the war, without success.

Zelensky called on China to leverage its political and economic influence over Russia to stop the fighting. “I’m sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would be feeling complete economic isolation,” Zelensky said.

Britney Griner Faces Up To 9.5 Years In Prison

Britney Griner appears in court in the region of Moscow

Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Zuma

Russian prosecutors Thursday asked for a 9.5-year jail sentence for American basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in a Moscow regional court on charges of drug smuggling.

The case has become a diplomatic row between the U.S. and Russia in the midst of the war in Ukraine, as Washington has sought a prisoner exchange to free the 31-year-old WNBA star, who was first arrested at the Moscow airport in February with cannabis oil in her luggage.

Fleeing Ukrainian Refugees Stuck Due To Floods

People waiting to receive humanitarian aid in Zaporizhzhia.

Andriy Andriyenko/SOPA/Zuma

Some 6,000 people trying to leave Russian-occupied territories for the city of Zaporizhzhia are stuck due to flooding on the roads. “The waiting time there is up to seven days,” , Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov told Ukrainian television on Thursday. “But the situation has become more complicated in the last few days, because there is heavy rain in the Zaporizhzhia region, and the dirt road, which is in the gray zone, is now impassable”

With the Ukrainian army trying to take back the occupied city of Kherson, officials said the number of refugees trying to travel through the road has increased.

The route to the city of Zaporizhzhia is one of the few “green corridors”, allowing citizens to escape the Russian-occupied territories. Fedorov added that Russians are “deliberately blocking this path now, because they are deliberately releasing our citizens, who will then get stuck on this dirt road.”

Ukraine’s Crackdown On Draft Dodgers

Ukrainian soldiers patrolling the streets of Kyiv

Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA

Ukrainian State Border Services detained over 6,400 men of draft age trying to flee Ukraine since the start of the war. The arrested individuals presented fake documents, hid in transport, and tried to bribe border guards. At least 2,400 of them were arrested as they tried to pass through passport control. Guards refused a total of Hr 3.5 million ($95,000) in bribes among the cases, Border Services reports.

U.S. Accuses Russia Of Fabricating Evidence In Deadly Prison Attack

Rally after prison attack in Lviv

Mykola Tys/SOPA/Zuma

U.S. officials believe that Russia is attempting to fabricate evidence regarding the attack in occupied Olenivka, during which 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed. Intelligence officers say that the Russian Federation is trying to plant false evidence in order to blame Ukraine for blowing up the prison, writes the Associated Press.

Classified U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the Russians may even drop HIMARS ammunition used against the Russia’s targets elsewhere to make it look like it was the Ukrainians who fired at the prison with U.S.-supplied weapons.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would appoint a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the prison.

Inside Zelensky’s Crackdown On Ukrainian Oligarchs

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with oligarch Igor Kolomoisky at a press conference in 2015

Mikhail Palinchak/TASS/ZUMA

When he was elected, President Volodymyr Zelensky knew the disproportionate political power of Ukraine’s own oligarch class stood in the way of progress. Since Russia’s invasion, the war effort has been his singular priority.

Yet over the past few weeks, accelerated by the close-up scrutiny of Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, it seems that the dual challenges of Russian aggression and domestic corruption are ultimately bound together. It is another reminder of how much the history and destiny of these two nations are connected.

Read the article in Worldcrunch by Anna Akage

Russia’s New Duty-Free Shops Resemble Hard-Currency “Beriozka” Stores In USSR

Russia has announced it’s launching several duty-free shops accessible only to diplomats, employees of embassies, consulates, international organizations, and their families. The shops, which will open in Moscow and St. Petersburg with prices listed in rubles, U.S. dollars, and euros, are to be operated by the Russian foreign ministry and another local entity chosen in a competition.

The idea resembles that of Beriozka stores, state-run shops in the USSR to which only foreign tourists with hard currency had access.

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My Wife, My Boyfriend — And Grandkids: A Careful Coming Out For China's Gay Seniors

A series of interviews in Wuhan with aging gay men — all currently or formerly married to women — reveals a hidden story of how Chinese LGBTQ culture is gradually emerging from the shadows.

Image of two senior men playing chinese Checkers.

A friendly game of Checkers in Dongcheng, Beijing, China.

Wang Er

WUHAN — " What do you think of that guy sitting there, across from us? He's good looking."

" Then you should go and talk to him."

“ Too bad that I am old..."

Grandpa Shen was born in 1933. He says that for the past 40 years, he's been "repackaged," a Chinese expression for having come out as gay. Before his wife died when he was 50, Grandpa Shen says he was was a "standard" straight Chinese man. After serving in the army, he began working in a factory, and dated many women and evenutually got married.

"Becoming gay is nothing special, I found it very natural." Grandpa Shen says he discovered his homosexuality at the Martyrs' Square in Wuhan, a well-known gay men's gathering place.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

Wuhan used to have different such ways for LGBTQ+ to meet: newspaper columns, riversides, public toilets, bridges and baths to name but a few. With urbanization, many of these locations have disappeared. The transformation of Martyrs' Square into a park has gradually become a place frequented by middle-aged and older gay people in Wuhan, where they play cards and chat and make friends. There are also "comrades" (Chinese slang for gay) from outside the city who come to visit.

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