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In The News

The Fall Of Severodonetsk

The Fall Of Severodonetsk

Severodonetsk

Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

After weeks of raging battles, it appears Severodonetsk is set to fall under full control of Russian forces. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces will have to withdraw from the strategic city in southeastern Ukraine.

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The decision to retreat was made in order to save Ukrainian soldiers: “Nobody abandons our guys, nobody allows the encirclement (of our troops). The situation right now is as such that staying at these destroyed positions just for the sake of being there doesn't make sense,” Haidai said. At least 90% of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed.


Russian troops have put Severodonetsk under siege for weeks, as Moscow aims to fully conquer the Donbas region. So what happens next?

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the battle for Severodonetsk and the nearby city of Lysychansk has mobilized a significant number of Russian troops, weapons and equipment for several weeks. The capture of Severodonetsk risks being "the detriment of Russian capacities during future advances in Ukraine," insists the ISW.

Forces from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) also said on Friday that they had captured the villages of Hirske and Zolote. “The Ukrainian group, located in the Gorsko-Zolotoy cauldron, has been liquidated. All settlements are under our control,” Andriy Marochko, an officer with the self-proclaimed LPR militia said in Telegram remarks reported by TASS news agency.

From Portugal To Poland, Marking “Historic” Decision To Grant Ukraine EU Candidate Status


The unanimous decision by the countries of the European Union to grant candidate status to Ukraine, four months after it was invaded by Russia, marks a decisive act of diplomatic unity in the face of war and aggression.

Heads of states and media on Friday marked the momentous decision taken the previous evening to officially invite Ukraine, along with its smaller fellow ex-Soviet Republic of Moldava, to apply to join the European bloc of shared policy, open borders and the single market. The process typically takes years, as the applicant must meet a range of EU standards on the economy, legal system, and more.

Still, it marks a watershed for Ukraine, which has sought the status for decades. In a video posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to receiving EU candidacy: “This is a victory we had waited for 120 days and 30 years,” he said. “After that we will defeat the enemy and get some rest. Or maybe we shall rebuild Ukraine first and get some rest afterwards. And maybe we shall win, rebuild, join the EU and then rest. Or maybe we won’t be getting rest, because the children would disagree with that. But we will definitely win.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland)

Le Soir (Belgium)

Público (Portugal)

Referendums Slated For September To Declare Republics In Occupied Ukrainian Territories

Russian troops in Kherson

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS/Zuma


Russian proxies are set to hold staged referendums on Sep. 11 to proclaim “republics” in the occupied regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Ukrainian military's Center for National Resistance said in its report that the date of the staged referendums in occupied territories of these regions was chosen to coincide with the national voting day in Russia, where elections for parliamentary deputies and governors in several regions are scheduled across the Russian Federation.

Russian Forces “Weaponizing” Food


According to a U.S. official, the Black Sea fleet of the Russian Navy, "is under orders to effectively blockade the Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Ochakiv.” The Russian forces are also deploying mines in the Black Sea.

The West continues to accuse Moscow of being responsible for the food shortage and “weaponizing” goods as tons of grain are being held hostage in Ukrainian ports.

Russia claims it is not holding back agricultural shipments from Ukraine, and has said Kyiv must de-mine the waters for the ships to transit.

The U.S. State Department announced Thursday that newly declassified intelligence "suggests that Russian forces are destroying Ukrainian grain terminals and silos," including "Ukraine's second largest terminal.” Images posted by the State Department on Twitter show the destruction of the terminal.

BRICS Leaders Call For Russia-Ukraine Negotiations

Moscow daily Kommersant


The leaders of the BRICS nationals (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) discussed the war in Ukraine via video link, urging negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. In addition, BRICS called for a sweeping reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, during the online conference, which offered the first global forum to Russian Vladimir Putin since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

“We support negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. We also discussed concerns about the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine and expressed support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General, UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” a joint statement read.

The BRICS leaders also declared their commitment to "respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states" and the peaceful settlement of differences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during the summit said that the crisis that has developed in the global economy arose due to "ill-conceived, selfish actions of individual states." In his opinion, these countries "transfer to the whole world their own mistakes in macroeconomic policy."

First Trial Of Russian Soldier Charged With Rape Begins


Ukraine has held a preliminary hearing in its first trial against a Russian soldier charged with the rape a Ukrainian woman. Many more cases similar to this one are under investigation. To protect the victim, the trial is being held behind closed doors.

The suspect, Mikhail Romanov, 32, will be tried in absentia. He is accused of breaking into a house in March in a village outside the region of Kyiv, murdering a man and raping his wife.

This comes as Russian crimes against Ukrainian civilians include sexual assault, murder and looting. A prosecutor working on sexual violence cases told Reuters that up to 50 crimes involving sexual assault and rape are being investigated.

Russian Air Force Facing Pilot Shortage

Sukhoi Su-25 jet aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS/Zuma


The Russian Air Force is hiring retired pilots working as contractors for Wagner's private military company to carry out direct air support missions for Russian troops. Military observers say the move indicates that the Russian Air Force is short of pilots, probably due to a combination of a lack of properly trained specialists and heavy losses in the war against Ukraine.

Moscow's School Curriculum Updates To Reflect “Revival” Of Russia As World Power

Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, RussiaPhoto by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash



Russia’s Ministry of Education has prepared amendments to the federal state educational standard (FSES) of secondary general education to include “reunification with Crimea and Sevastopol” and the “special military operation” in Ukraine in its standard “History of Russia” course. The department says it wants schoolchildren to develop an understanding of the causes and consequences of "the revival of the Russian Federation as a world power."

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Economy

Twisting Open The Secrets Of Portugal's Cork Empire

In the hands of the same family since 1870, the world's largest producer of corks almost disappeared in the early 2000s. Today, this gem of Portuguese industry has not only reconquered its historic market, but has made cork the darling of many other sectors.

Craftsman slicing a piece of cork.

Craftsman slicing a piece of cork.

Amorim Cork via Facebook
Nathalie Villard

PORTO DE SANTA MARIA DA FEIRA — In the courtyard, mountains of bark await their turn before moving onto the conveyor belts. Scanned from every angle, they are distributed according to the thickness of their cork layer, before an artificial intelligence system scans them with cameras and tells robots where to drill, turning the bark into small cylinders. Nearby, a dozen human operators perform the same work by hand and eye. "Their expertise is unique, and we reserve it for our best customers," explains Carlos de Jesus, marketing director for cork company Amorim.

Once cut into perfect-looking corks, they undergo a final test. Conceiçao Loja, bending over bags ready for shipment, spots some with micro-defects. "Does it change the quality of the wine? No. But if you're a prestigious château, you expect everything to be perfect," proudly says the technician with 37 years' experience under her belt.

It's impossible to miss the factories along the 25 kilometers that separate Porto, Portugal from Santa Maria da Feira, Amorim's stronghold. Similar to the one we surveyed on this March morning, they're everywhere, churning out over 6 billion corks a year, which is half of the world's entire production. But wine and champagne houses, the company's long-standing customers, are not the only ones to benefit: from shoe soles to surfboards, insulation panels to rocket noses, stadium floors to ship decks, Amorim cork is everywhere.

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