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Geopolitics
Christian Putsch

Meet Ibrahim Traoré, Russia’s Favorite New Strongman In Africa

While Russia is suffering bitter setbacks in the Ukraine war, it is successfully expanding its influence in Africa. With Burkina Faso, Moscow has succeeded in detaching another country from the French sphere of influence. The Kremlin was not only motivated by security policy, but also by digging into the resources available.

-Analysis-

Experience shows that the number of well-wishers after coups d'état is close to zero.

The situation is different for Burkina Faso's new military ruler, Ibrahim Traoré. Although he received the expected condemnation for his September 30 coup from the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the West African confederation Ecowas, he also received benevolent words — from Russia.

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They came from Russian oligarch Yevgini Prigozhin, founder of the Kremlin-affiliated mercenary group Wagner.

"I congratulate and support Captain Ibrahim Traoré," the Putin loyalist announced just hours after the coup, when the whole world was still puzzling over who exactly is this soldier, who is just 34 years old and has emerged from the middle ranks of the army hierarchy.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Yves Bourdillon

How Western Sanctions Are Quietly Undermining Russia's Fighting Power

Despite what the Kremlin claims, Western sanctions against Russia are working. Perhaps most important is the embargo on electronic component exports, which prevents the Russian army from rebuilding tanks and missiles severely depleted in the war.

-Analysis-

PARIS Europe is shooting itself in the foot.

That was the narrative that spread among both the public and economists: the European Union sanctions against Russia were bound to backfire, without ever really taking a toll on Moscow — power shortages this winter in the West, while Russia "bathes in cash" thanks to soaring energy prices and a rising ruble. All the while, the received wisdom told us, Moscow will be able to skirt any EU export embargoes via the black market or thanks to its Chinese ally.

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The ever masochistic European Union was blindly following the U.S, rather than truly defending our interests by advocating a rapid diplomatic solution, a formula that ultimately means "just let Putin take Ukraine".

The only problem is that this narrative is that it's a myth. It is a line of rhetoric based on a lack of understanding of the real objectives and functioning of sanctions.

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Geopolitics
Marcos Peckel

China, Russia And Iran: A New Axis Of Tyranny

A triad of powers is taking the world on a rocky ride to a new world (dis)order. Nobody quite knows where we're heading, but the ride is sure to be bumpy.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — By now, it's clear that the old world order is ending, and making way for a new one — and like all beginnings, this moment is fraught with uncertainties.

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In this new order, or disorder, there is a power axis that includes China, Iran and Russia. They are not strictly an alliance, nor do their interests overlap entirely. The similarity is rather in their treatment of the current order we liked to view as free of inter-state wars, brazen attacks on weaker neighbors, or land grabs that violate Article 2 of the UN Charter.

These are three countries ruled by despots who mercilessly crush all opposition to them, whether it be the Uighurs of China locked up in communist reeducation camps, the girls and women of Iran murdered by the Supreme leader's Revolutionary guards, or the Russian opponents of the war in Ukraine who have conspicuously disappeared.

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Russia
Manoj Joshi

Could India Be The Ukraine-Russia Mediator The World Needs?

New Delhi has the ability and diplomatic space to lead an effort to halt the conflict. But timing is everything.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Let's look at several recent developments: Narendra Modi’s rebuke of Russia at the SCO summit in Samarkand, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to Moscow, a Washington Post story saying the U.S. was pushing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to be open to negotiations with Russia. Taken together, these and other factors have triggered speculation that New Delhi could possibly play the role of peacemaker in the Ukraine war.

Does India have the necessary heft and stamina to take up the task?

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For the record, speaking at a Hindustan Times event on Thursday, Jaishankar has said that it would be “premature” to speak of India acting as a mediator to make peace between Russia and Ukraine. Note that he did not reject the notion.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Russia Is Either Giving Up Kherson, Or Setting A Trap

The mixed messages Friday may be part of a Kremlin strategy to fight for the southern city even harder.

The strategic southern Ukraine city of Kherson hangs in the balance Friday, as top leadership in Moscow is sending conflicting messages.

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Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of Kherson’s Moscow-installed administration, told Russian state television that “most likely, our units, our troops will go to the left bank part of the Kherson region.” The revelation appears to signal a withdrawal of Russian troops from the strategic southern city that would prove to be a major setback for Moscow.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino and Emma Albright

G20 Pushing China To Join Resolution That Would Isolate Russia

French President Macron used his bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping to try to convince China to take a tougher line with Moscow.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the clearest indication Tuesday that the G20 members are moving toward a resolution critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which would also denounce any threats about using nuclear weapons.

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"This is a consensus that is gaining ground here," Scholz told journalists in Bali.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Kyiv Adds New Charge To Genocide Case Against Russia

Ukraine’s case for pursuing Russia and its leadership for war crimes now includes Moscow’s current strategy of trying to cut off energy supplies to Ukrainian civilians by destroying the country’s power grid. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin told the BBC that strikes on key energy infrastructure targeted "the full Ukrainian nation," which fall under the purview of attempted genocide.

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In contrast to other war crimes, genocide is the intention to physically destroy members of a particular population group or ethnicity. Kostin says the evidence of genocide against Russia has already included its forcibly taking Ukrainian children to Russia and giving them for adoption to Russian families; organizing so-called “filtration camps,” torturing and killing civilians — and now Moscow’s waging war against the entire population of Ukraine by trying to deprive millions of light, heat, and water in the winter.

Emergency power cuts continue throughout the country Monday, with the situation aggravated by the onset of winter: Nighttime temperatures have dropped to -8 °C, and -5 °C during the day.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Russia Loses Kherson — Decisive Moment Or More War Of Attrition?

After several weeks of mixed messages, the announcement of Russia’s withdrawal from the strategic city of Kherson caught many off guard. It is in many respects a momentous turn, with Ukraine poised to retake a city captured by Russian forces in the very first days after the Feb. 24 invasion.

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The pullout is not only important in symbolic terms, but can wind up being a significant blow for Russia as the two-month-long Ukrainian counteroffensive can now advance eastward into the Donbas region.

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In The News
Sophia Constantino, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

COP27 Hunger Strike, U.S.-Russia Talks, Record Lottery Jackpot

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Monday, where a newspaper report says the top U.S. security official has had a secret channel open with Moscow to ease risk of nuclear attacks, a COP 27 hunger strike aims at the Cairo regime and a lottery prize sets a record. Meanwhile, we’ve gathered some international coverage of the campaign for the U.S. midterm elections (which happen tomorrow).

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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Georgia
Anna Akage

Calling Georgia: Time For Russia’s Ambivalent Neighbor To Pick A Side

Unlike other neighbors in the region, leading political figures in Georgia have refrained from officially denouncing Russia's invasion. From Joseph Stalin's birthplace, it's a complicated relationship. But winding up on the wrong side of history has its consequences.

-Analysis-

Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili declared last week that his nation stands in solidarity with Ukraine in its opposition to Russian aggression, and will not allow its territory to be used to circumvent the sanctions imposed against Russia.

“Unfortunately, we Georgians, Moldovans, and Ukrainians have faced this many times before,” said the 46-year-old member of the ruling Georgian Dream party, recalling Moscow’s assault in 2008 in the disputed regions that wound up annexed by pro-Russian factions. “We saw Russian tanks destroying Georgian villages and Russian planes bombing our hopes for a better future. We witnessed the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral homes and saw those who fled massacres and ethnic cleansing shelter in cold basements with their children and loved ones for months and years."

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The statement was clear, strong and specific — it was also eight months late.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger and Jeff Israely

Russia Arrests Suspects In Kerch Bridge Explosion

The Kremlin blamed the Oct. 8 Crimea bridge explosion on the “Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense” and its director, Kyrylo Budanov, and detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on Wednesday blamed the Crimea bridge explosion on the “Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense” and its director, Kyrylo Budanov. It had detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over the explosion that damaged the Crimea Bridge on Saturday morning.

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Speculation of the cause of the explosion has made its rounds on social media, including theories involving a suicide truck bomber.

The head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Alexander Bastrykin, said that "citizens of the Russian Federation and foreign countries were involved in the incident, they helped in the preparation of the terrorist attack."

The explosion killed three people and destroyed one section of the 12-mile-long bridge, which was given great symbolic weight after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It had also become vital to Putin’s military campaign.

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Geopolitics
Marc Pfitzenmaier

Gotland, The Swedish Island Standing Between Russia And NATO Vulnerability

The Swedish island of Gotland is the last bastion between Russia and the entire Baltic region. Sweden has been busy fortifying the island, with the stakes even higher as Stockholm is set to join NATO, and life for locals makes it clear that something has changed.

VISBY (Gotland) — Dag Svensson is kneeling on the ground in full combat gear. Propped on his shoulder is a 12-kilogram anti-tank guided missile, also known as an NLAW. Under the stern gaze of his captain, Svensson takes aim — a red laser dot in the scope indicates his target — and releases the safety with the fingers of his right hand and presses the ignition button.

There is no recoil from the rocket today, instead a mechanical whirring comes from the housing. Dag's captain is happy, so is Dag.

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"I could fire in the field at any time," he says confidently. It is also clear what he would aim for if the exercise turned into an emergency: "We are training here to meet the Russians."

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