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In The News

War In Ukraine, Day 85: Russia’s "Smaller" Operations And Shrinking Ambitions

U.S. Department of Defense officials report that instead of the typical battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, which number several hundred soldiers, the Russians have now shifted to attacks by smaller units.

A new Pentagon report has found that Russia is continuing to reduce the scale of its military actions toward more "small" operations, which is another sign that it has lowered the ambitions of its invasion of Ukraine.

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The Washington Post, citing a U.S. Department of Defense official, reports that instead of the typical battalion tactical groups, which number several hundred soldiers, the Russians have now shifted to attacks by smaller units, each ranging from a few dozen to a hundred soldiers. These smaller units have also scaled down their objectives and are targeting towns, villages and crossroads.

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What Happens Now To Mariupol Soldiers?

Up to 1,000 Ukrainian troops have reportedly surrendered from the Azovstal steel plant in the port of Mariupol, with all sent to a prisoner camp in Russian-controlled territory in Donbas. Ukrainians are hoping for a prisoner exchange, though Moscow may try some for war crimes.

Mariupol has fallen. The first 300 of the last Ukrainian troops holding out in the Ukrainian port city were taken early yesterday from the Azovstal steel plant toward the Russian-controlled former penal colony in Olenivka, Donetsk region. By Tuesday night, another column of seven buses, accompanied by Russian troops arrived in Olenivka, with a total of up to 1,000 soldiers reportedly surrendered by Wednesday morning.

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Ukrainians have been calling Tuesday’s events an evacuation, but Russia says it is the capture and surrender of Ukrainian troops, BBC Ukraine reports.

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End Of Mariupol Siege, Tripoli Clashes, Looking For Mars Life

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia declares victory in Mariupol as the 82-day siege ends, Biden’s administration lifts some Trump-era restrictions on Cuba and NASA’s rover starts digging around for life on Mars. Meanwhile, America Economia explains how blockchain technology could take the cannabis business to an all-time high.

[*French]

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Finland And Sweden In NATO? It Just Got Complicated

Turkey's Erdogan puts up a veto, while Orban's Hungary plays it coy. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin throws a curveball.

Following Finland’s and Sweden’s historic decisions to apply for NATO membership, major questions are emerging as to how quickly — if at all — they will become actual members of the military alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a longstanding NATO member, surprised some observers by coming out strongly against Nordic countries joining.

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"Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisations. How can we trust them?" Erdogan said on Monday. Turkey has accused Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, of harboring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, a longstanding Erdogan nemesis whom Turkey blames for the 2016 coup attempt.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger.

Russia Warns Of NATO “Grave Mistake”, Shanghai Aims For Normalcy, Record Pakistan Heat

👋 Grüezi!*

Welcome to Monday, where Russia warns Finland and Sweden that joining NATO would be a “grave mistake,” locked-down Shanghai announces it aims for June 1 reopening, and South Asia’s heat wave becomes untenable. Meanwhile, Peter Huth in German daily Die Welt explains why the Doomsday Clock isn’t ticking quite the same for millennials today as it was for baby boomers.

[*Swiss German]

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In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

“We Are Here” - Ukrainian Forces Reach Russian Border

After reseizing Kharkiv, Ukrainian soldiers reach the border with Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow continues its assault on Donbas, and has renewed missile strikes of the port city of Odesa.

Ukrainian forces continue to regain more territory in the northeast of the country, and by Monday morning had announced that a battalion had reached the Russian border.

This comes after having taken back control of Kharkiv, the second biggest Ukrainian city, as Russian troops appear to be making a hasty retreat. This latest development continues to indicate the inability of Russian troops to dominate Ukrainian forces.

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After this successful counter-offensive, Ukraine’s defense ministry posted a video showing soldiers gathered around a yellow and blue painted post upon arrival at the Russian border. “Today the 15th of May, Kharkiv's territorial defense forces of Ukraine - 227th battalion, 127th brigade - went to the border with the Russian Federation,” said one soldier. “We are here.”

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In The News

Russia Warns Finland Over Joining NATO

Sharing an 800-mile border with Russia, the Nordic country has seen public support for NATO membership skyrocket following the invasion of Ukraine. Neighboring Sweden also looks set to join the military alliance later this month. Both countries had for decades avoided NATO membership for fear of provoking Russia.

Finland looks certain to join NATO after the country’s president and prime minister released a joint statement saying they are in favor of joining the military alliance.

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“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. NATO leaders indicated that the application would be approved rapidly.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned "corresponding symmetrical responses on our side," to Finland's accession to the military alliance.

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Geopolitics
Emma Albright, Shaun Lavelle and Cameron Manley

Fears Of Putin’s War Spreading Amid Rumblings In Transnistria

More of the latest: European economy under threat by gas cuts, Mariupol soldier holed up in steel plant, Finland poll on joining, Russia pulls out mercenary troops from Libya, U.S. considers labeling Russia sponsors of terrorism, and more...

The recent series of explosions occurring in part of Transnistria, a breakaway territory within Moldova that has housed Russian troops for decades, have sparked fears that this region may be where Vladimir Putin will take his expansionist war next.

The inhabitants of Transnistria, considered to be pro-Russian, insist they want to be left out of the conflict, reports Tonia Mastrobuoni reports for Italian daily La Repubblica. “We want peace and want to be left in peace,” one of several residents interviewed who refused to give their name.

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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu insisted that the situation in Transnistria is "more or less calm," though in the past 36 hours there have been a series of explosions that no one has taken responsibility for — and which Ukraine says could be used by Moscow as a pretext to move into Moldova.

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In The News
Lorraine Olaya, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou and Emma Albright

Russia Vows New Attacks On Kyiv After Moskva Warship Sinks

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where Russia warns of more strikes on Kyiv as Ukraine claims responsibility for the sinking of the Moskva warship, hundreds are wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, and “Houston, we have a kebab.” In German daily Die Welt, Michael Brendler explores the end-of-life ethical question that has gained new attention during the pandemic: When is it better to turn off life-support equipment?

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

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Geopolitics
Carl Karlsson

It’s Time To Start Building A Post-NATO World

One month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden is in Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO’s leaders. But for current and potential future members, the very purpose of the alliance is in doubt.

-Analysis-

PARIS — If we are to believe Vladimir Putin, NATO policy of the past three decades forced him to invade Ukraine. Safe to say, we don’t believe Vladimir Putin. Still, the Transatlantic military alliance, which marks 73 years since its founding next week, is a problem.

Ukraine is pleading in vain for membership. The U.S. has made it clear that troops on the ground is off the table and NATO has rejected Ukraine’s pleas for a no-fly zone. President Joe Biden’s goal in arriving for an emergency summit this week in Brussels is to ensure that Western leaders are moving in lockstep to tighten sanctions on Russia and coordinate defense preparations.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Does NATO Deter Or Provoke Russia? Look To Finland And Sweden For The Answer

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled the Nordic debate over the possibility of joining NATO, prompting Russian threats. It's a microcosm for the conflict itself.

Like elsewhere, Sweden and Finland have taken historic decisions in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month — each breaking their respective policy of not providing arms to countries at war, by sending military aid to Kyiv.

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Indeed, for Sweden, the last time it happened was during the Winter War of 1939, when it gave assistance to Finland to counter an invasion by the Soviet Union.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Trying To Gauge Russian Ambitions? Look How Nervous Its Nordic Neighbors Are

The eyes of the world are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as Putin threatens an invasion. However, the more vital stage of the Kremlin’s military ambitions is the Baltic Sea, where the likes of bordering countries like Finland and Sweden are mobilizing troops as Moscow tries to undermine the allegiance of the EU and former Soviet states.

While tensions between the U.S and Russia mount with the Kremlin gathering troops at the border of Ukraine, countries farther north are preparing for the worst.

In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter reports that the country of 10 million people deployed armored vehicles and 100 soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to Russian landing ships sailing into the Baltic Sea. Even if the Swedish Armed Forces announced soon after that the ships were leaving, serious questions about Russia's military ambitions remain.

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Russia
Carl-Johan Karlsson

How Climate Consensus Could Cool Appetite For Arctic Exploitation

As global warming melts the ice covering parts of the Arctic Ocean, new opportunities are opening up for the exploration of natural resources, including oil. But the accelerating cooperation on climate objectives could wind up saving the Arctic from both business and military interests.

Analysis

PARISMoscow is militarizing the North Pole ... China claims near-arctic state status ... Trump wants to buy Greenland ...

That sampling of headlines from the last few years is a testament to the emergence of the Arctic as a frosty point of potential conflict among the major geopolitical force reshaping our world. Most would still struggle to imagine why this distant place of drifting ice blocks and polar bears, historically considered a place too inaccessible and distant for governments to pay any mind, is suddenly emerging as a frontier of global power play.

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Sources
Anne-Françoise Hivert

Tom Of Finland, Double Life Of The Gay Icon Who Changed A Nation

His erotic drawings of virile men captured the homosexual zeitgeist. But in his country, where it was illegal to be gay, the artist had to remain undercover. A revival is now spreading around Finland, and helping to change attitudes.

TURKU — For him, he was just Uncle Touko. Tapani Vinkama recalls the vacations he spent in Helsinki with a man who so many foreigners keep asking about. Now 72, Vinkama manages the Kvariaatti bookshop on one of the main streets of Turku, a city in southwest Finland. Only in the fall of 1991 did Vinkama discover the secret life his mother's brother, who had just died.

Behind the successful graphic designer Touko Laaksonen, born in 1920, was the illustrator of homoerotic drawings Tom of Finland, praised abroad but who stayed undercover in his homeland to respect the promise he had made to his sister never to reveal his alias. More than a quarter-century later, a new biopic has been released that retraces his journey for the whole world to see.

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Geopolitics
Antoine Jacob

In Scandinavia, Populists Face The Harsh Reality Of Governing

In Finland and Norway, right-wing, anti-elite and anti-immigration parties have had to adapt to the problems of power, but they still can fire up the base by playing to their gut.

His blue eyes gazing out of black-framed glasses, the silver-haired Hans Andreas Limi readily admits: "It's much easier to be in the opposition, no doubt about it." A bell rings and he's gone. It's voting time in the chamber. On the wall of his office hangs a small Norwegian flag under a layer of Plexiglass along with a smiling portrait of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Limi is one of 29 deputies and the former secretary of Norway's Progress Party (FrP), one of the northern European parties that came to power through "anti-elite" speeches and thrilling promises. In recent years, right-wing populist parties have entered the government for the first time in Norway and the second time in Finland. Speaking out forcefully and carrying bags full of promises: With them, the demands of the people would be better taken into account; the real problems, treaties and national interests, defended. Since then, the parties have had different fortunes, both discovering that exercising power is not simple. It can also harm popularity.

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Economy
Giacomo Tognini

Universal Basic Income, 5 Experiments From Around The World

Imagine receiving a check from the government every month. The concept of guaranteed basic income for all citizens has been gaining prominence around the world, leading to referendums and national political debate in several countries.

Known by different names, a policy of "universal basic income" (UBI) is a form of government assistance where every citizen receives a monthly income — regardless of their age or employment status. In a referendum in June last year, 76.9% of Swiss voters rejected a proposal that would have enshrined basic income as a constitutional right. But despite the Swiss setback, the idea is gaining currency elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Recently, the foundation run by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar laid out $493,000 to help fund a UBI program in Kenya.

Here are five different basic income schemes around the world:

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