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Zelensky, Lavrov Both Try To Sway China After Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit

Lavrov and Zelensky in front of a Chinese flag

Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Soon after the Ukraine war began, the world began to ask: Where next? There were fears not just that Russia would try to expand its sphere of influence in the region, but that the war could set off other simmering conflicts around the world.

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The first to come to mind was China and Taiwan. And so now, five months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the high-stakes visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the highest-ranking U.S. state visit in 25 years that was meant to show support for Taiwan, and has prompted a flurry of threats from China.


And right on cue, both sides in the Russia-Ukraine war have tried to bring China on their side.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saw a prime opportunity to voice support for Beijing by expressing disdain toward Washington. He said Pelosi’s visit visit was a demonstration of America’s “impunity and a display of their lawlessness," according to Russian state newswire TASS. “It reflects the very same policy we are talking about with regards to the Ukrainian situation.”

Also on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on China “to join the united world” and oppose Russia. He was asked Wednesday about China during a virtual address to the Australian National University, adding that he believed “the nation, the people of China will do the prudent choice,” and it is “important that China wouldn’t help Russia.”

More than ever, the world waits to see what China will do: about Taiwan, about Russia, about the U.S. And beyond.

Ukrainian Troops Advance Toward Kherson, Donetsk Facing Humanitarian Catastrophe

Artillery strike in Donetsk

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA/Zuma


The Ukrainian army has moved closer to the strategic city of Kherson, liberating seven more villages nearby. Ukraine says a total of 53 settlements have now so far been liberated since Kyiv announced a major counteroffensive to retake the south of Ukraine, reports Ukrainian Pravda.

For two months, most of the region's territory has been without mobile and Internet communication. On the orders of the occupying authorities, prices in public transport have doubled, and the situation in the humanitarian sphere is difficult;Russian soldiers are bringing in their own doctors because of the lack of medical personnel.

On the other side of the front, in the Donetsk region, the situation is much more complicated, as Russian troops advance slowly. Authorities report that the region is in a state of humanitarian disaster, and the mandatory evacuation of the population continues. Ukrainian Pravda writes that civilians are killed by shelling in Donetsk Region every day, but it is impossible to determine the number of casualties.

Russian Soldiers Loot Last Savings Of Mariupol Residents

Everyday life in Mariupol

Valentin Sprinchak/TASS/Zuma


Russian soldiers looted a bank in Mariupol, taking everything out of the deposit boxes of Mariupol residents, according to deputy mayor Petro Andryushchenko.

It shouldn’t surprise by now: Everything in Mariupol that’s managed to survive winds up into the hands of the Russian army. Since the beginning of the war, there have been reports of looting, and stealing cars, equipment, and jewelry directly from the apartments of civilians.

Electronics stores and supermarkets have also been emptied — and now it's finally the turn for what were once called: safe deposit boxes.

Schröder Meets Again With Putin, Touts Truce

Gerhard Schröder on the cover of Stern magazine

Twitter


Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has admitted that he has, again, met with Vladimir Putin in what he says is an effort to find a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine.

Speaking with German weekly Stern magazine and RTL broadcaster, Schroeder says that he sees an agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain as one of the signs that a truce is possible.

Already sanctioned for his ties with the Russian leader, Schröder refuses to renounce his friendship with Putin The German parliament stripped him of his taxpayer-funded office and staff for failing to take distance from his Russian business ties.

In the latest revelation, Schroeder also said he supported the launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, arguing the need to face shrinking energy supplies in Germany.

U.S. Sanctions Putin’s Reputed Girlfriend

Vladimir Putin and Alina Maratovna Kabaeva

Twitter


The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputed girlfriend, Alina Maratovna Kabaeva. This is part of the Biden administration’s ongoing attempt to target Russian elites in order to punish Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Kabaeva has already been sanctioned by the European Union as well as the United Kingdom.

Kabaeva was sanctioned "for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of the Government of the Russian Federation," a Treasury Department statement said. The statement also describes Kabaeva as having "a close relationship to Putin." She is a former member of the State Duma "and is the current head of the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio, and print organizations."

Zelensky Paves The Way For Same-Sex Partnerships in Ukraine

Pride Parade 2019 in Kiev

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA/Zuma

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he is working on changing the law on marriage in order to legalize same-sex civil partnerships in the country.

He said legalizing same-sex marriage, instead, remains impossible because it would requiring changing Ukraine’s constitution, which can’t happen during the war. A petition calling for same-sex marriage to be legal in Ukraine had garnered more than 28,000 signatures, with organizers also noting that LGBTQ soldiers should be afforded the same rights as others.

Under Ukrainian law, the president must review petitions that get more than 25,000 signatures. Zelensky added that “every citizen is an inseparable part of civil society, he is entitled to all the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine”.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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