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Putin Appears Eager To Please  Xi At First Meeting Since Invasion

China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo montage/Worldcrunch)
Anna Akage, Meike Eijsberg, Shaun Lavelle and Emma Albright

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Thursday at a summit in Uzbekistan, their first face-to-face encounter since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

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The meeting comes as Russia is reeling from major Ukraine advances on the ground in the six-month-old war, and with the Western alliance holding firm in its support of Kyiv. In their meeting, Russia state media reported that Putin told Xi Jinping he appreciated China’s “balanced position” regarding the conflict in Ukraine. The Kremlin leader also condemned U.S. “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait.


The meeting took place at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference, hosted in the historic Uzbek city of Samarkand along the Silk Road, and also includes India, Pakistan and four central Asian nations.

In televised remarks at the meeting, Putin told Xi: "We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis. We understand your questions and concerns about this. During today's meeting, we will of course explain our position."

Russia has been seeking China’s support since February’s invasion of Ukraine left it isolated in the face of wide-reaching Western sanctions and military support for Kyiv. China has tried to toe the line, but has repeatedly blamed the U.S. and NATO for provoking Moscow.

Hours before the two leaders met, Russian and Chinese navies conducted joint patrols and exercises in the Pacific Ocean according to Russia's Ministry of Defense, in a symbolic show of force.

This meeting comes amid Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the south of the country to take by Russian-occupied territory and Putin’s troops are retreating in mass.

After Each Spoke With Putin, UN Secretary-General, German Chancellor Pessimistic About Peace Deal

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/zuma


UN Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres was downbeat about the possibility of peace after a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Guterres commented: “A ceasefire is not in sight… I would be lying if I said it would happen.”

Guterres and Putin also discussed the grain deal, prisoners of war, and Russia’s promise that there would be no obstacles to a fact-finding mission into last month’s prison attack in the Russian-occupied region of Eastern Ukraine in which dozens were killed.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also had a phone call with Putin a day earlier, and likewise expressed little hope of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Russian Missile Strikes Provoke Floods, Residents Told To Evacuate

Floods in Kryvyi Rih

@dattalion


Russian missile strikes destroyed a water pumping station in Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown. The strikes caused the Inhulets River to break through a dam. Residents in districts around the river were asked to evacuate their homes on Thursday.

This incident caused the embankments to flood which are close to residential buildings. But the water level has dropped and continues to fall according to the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region civil military administration Valentyn Reznichenko.

Zelenksy’s Suprise Visit To Newly Liberated City Of Izium

Ukrainian President Zelensky Visits Recaptured City of Izium

Ukrainian Presidential Press Off/Planet Pix/Zuma


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the town of Izium in the northeastern region of Kharkiv on Wednesday, five days after the country’s army recaptured the city from Russian occupation.

Zelensky attended a ceremony in the main square of the town where he raised the Ukrainian flag over the city’s administrative building, a testament to the growing confidence of officials in Kyiv. "Earlier, when we looked up, we always looked for the blue sky. Today, when we look up, we are looking for only one thing, the flag of Ukraine," he said on Telegram.

Izium is located near the border between the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions and was under Russian occupation for over five months. The Russian army was using the city as a launching pad for attacks towards the Donetsk region.

Zelensky Uninjured In Kyiv Car Crash

Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian Presidential Press Off/Planet Pix/Zuma

Officials in Kyiv are investigating a car crash involving the motorcade of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday. The president’s press secretary said that Zelensky was not seriously hurt. The statement read, “a car collided with the car of the President of Ukraine and escort vehicles. Medics accompanying the head of the state provided the driver of the car with emergency aid and transferred him to an ambulance.”

New Video Of Soldiers Being Recruited In Russian Prison


After a new video emerged, the unofficial head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was forced to confirm that his private militia has recruited Russian prisoners to fight in the war in Ukraine.

According to U.S. think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, the militia, known as Putin’s “ghost army,” has been recruiting in prisons since July.

A video, posted Wednesday by a journalist, shows Prigozhin speaking to inmates at a prison, saying that those who commit themselves to fighting in the conflict will be rewarded after six months with a pardon from their sentence, and will be able to return home or remain in the ranks of the Wagner militia.

U.S. Senators Introduce Bill To Designate Russia State Sponsor Of Terrorism

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham

Rod Lamkey/CNP/Zuma

U.S. Senators have introduced new legislation that would label Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. This designation was pushed by Ukraine, but has been opposed by President Joe Biden’s administration for fear of making eventual peace negotiations more difficult.

The Bill was introduced by both Democratic and Republican Senators. "The need for this measure is more pressing now than ever before," said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the designation would send a strong signal of support to Kyiv, as well as U.S. allies, while imposing stiff penalties on Russia.

Sofia To Budapest? Potential Putin Allies Inside The EU

A mural depicting Vladimir Putin in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Matias Basualdo/ZUMA


In early October, Bulgaria will once again hold elections, as the country struggles to choose its path: democracy or cronyism, pro-Western or pro-Russian.

For the EU, there is a lot at stake. Bulgaria could play a key role in Europe’s energy supply – if its government is wiling. German daily Die Welt notes that another potential headache for Brussels is the possibility that Bulgaria could follow Hungary’s example in opposing strict sanctions on Russia. Read more here

In Crimea, Wedding Guests Arrested For Dancing To A Ukrainian Song


In Russia and in its occupied territories, repression and arrests continue to target those who sympathize with Ukraine or speak out against the war — and they’re getting more absurd.

In Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, wedding guests, including the mothers of the bride and groom, were detained for dancing to the Ukrainian folk song Chervona Kalina. They were fined and sent to a detention center for 15 days. The official reason was the display of Nazi symbols and discrediting the Russian army, though pro-Russian publications referred to the song as "the anthem of Ukrainian nationalists."

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Geopolitics

Olaf Scholz: Trying To Crack The Code Of Germany's Enigmatic Chancellor

Olaf Scholz took over for Angela Merkel a year ago, but for many he remains a mysterious figure through a series of tumultuous events, including his wavering on the war in Ukraine.

man boarding a plane

Olaf Scholz boading an Air Force Special Air Mission Wing plane, on his way to the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Tirana.

Michael Kappeler / dpa via ZUMA Press
Peter Huth

-Analysis-

BERLIN — When I told my wife that I was planning to write an article about “a year of Scholz,” she said, “Who’s that?” To be fair, she misheard me, and over the last 12 months the German Chancellor has mainly been referred to by his first name, Olaf.

Still, it’s a reasonable question. Who is Olaf Scholz, really? Or perhaps we should ask: how many versions of Olaf Scholz are there? A year after taking over from Angela Merkel, we still don’t know.

Chancellors from Germany’s Social Democrat Party (SPD) have always been easy to characterize. First there was Willy Brandt – he suffered from depression and had an intriguing private life. His affected public speaking style is still the gold standard for anyone who wants to get ahead in the center-left party. Then came Helmut Schmidt. He lived off his reputation for handling any crisis, smoked like a chimney and eventually won over the public.

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