Geopolitics

Russia And Ukraine, The Meaning Of A Bad Status Quo

Despite being parties of one conflict and neighbors and comrades of the same historical events, it is now obvious that Russia and Ukraine — or at least their very different leaders, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky — are living in opposing realities.

-Analysis-

The best we can say about the recent visits of U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland to Moscow with top European officials Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel to Kyiv was that these high-level meetings ensured the status quo in the longstanding Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But that is a status quo measured in dead negotiations in the Normandy Format over the simmering war on the border and the status of Crimea. It is status quo of the shared disapproval of the situation, and the clarity of the opposing directions chosen by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Microplastics In Lake Baikal, World’s Largest Freshwater Lake At Risk

Fishing nets, industry and other human-caused dumping are poisoning Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's largest, deepest (and oldest) lake. Bigger than all the North American Great Lakes combined, it's at risk after 25 million years of life.

MOSCOW — The vast and ancient Lake Baikal in Russia has a rich history, providing a home for thousands of plants and animal species and sustaining the nearby Buryat tribes going back millennia. It's the world's deepest and oldest lake, and has survived for some 25-30 million years. But its depths bury a dark secret: a growing layer of microplastic pollution that threatens the health of Lake Baikal.

A new study looking at microplastics was conducted in the southeastern coast of the lake and the Small Sea in Southern Siberia. These places are not the most populated on the Baikal shore; no more than several hundred people live there permanently. But the water sampling areas were chosen not by chance: all of them are touristic areas, so they are considered to have a significant human impact.

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Litvinenko Verdict, Trudeau Survives, Woolly Hybrid

👋 Demat!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where there's a verdict in the poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Canada's Justin Trudeau scores a narrow victory and mammoths may soon make a woolly comeback. Meanwhile, from Saudi Arabia to Venezuela, we look at how top oil producing nations risk going the way of the dinosaur as the rest of the world adopts renewable energy.

[*Breton, France]

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Russia University Attack: School Shootings Spread Beyond The U.S.

After a gunman kills at least six and wounds dozens at Perm State University in Russia, we take a look around the world at other countries that have faced similar shooting sprees on school grounds outside of the United States.

We think of school shootings as a uniquely American malady. Statistics seem to overwhelmingly support this view: a 2018 CNN report estimated that the U.S. had 57 times as many school shootings as the other G7 nations combined, with an average of one attack a week. And though the past two years have seen a drop in massacres on school grounds, as the pandemic forced the education world to move online, a recent Washington Post article notes that as classrooms reopen, gun violence is again soaring at the nation's primary and secondary schools. According to the Everytown for Gun Safety nonprofit, there were at least 43 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 12 deaths and 19 injuries nationally since the beginning of the year.

Still, the rest of the world is not immune to the phenomenon, as we are reminded by the developing story in Russia (where a gunman, said to be a former student, opened fire at a university in the city of Perm, killing at least eight people). Is this global spread of these senseless shootings associated with the influence of American culture, media coverage and social media, inspiring copycats to commit similar crimes? Are school shootings linkable to places with lax gun-control laws? While research on this phenomenon continues, we take a look at places around the world that have grappled with comparable tragedies in recent years.

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Submarine Backlash, Toughest Vaccine Mandate, Prince Philip’s Secret Will

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

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Society

In Russia, Brands Advertising Diversity Are Under Attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple.

MOSCOW — "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi. What was the offending ad? Yobidoyobi published an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man.

Shortly after, Yobidoyobi's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. According to Zimen, the accusations began to appear after the founder of the far-right Male State movement, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, called on his Telegram digital channel to "leave feedback" about the company, as well as place orders and not pay for them.

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Geopolitics
Robin Alexander

Nord Stream 2: Merkel's Farewell Gift To Putin Is A Slap To Biden

Germany and the U.S. have agreed on a compromise to complete the gas pipeline — or rather, the Americans have submitted to Angela Merkel, who in turn had a farewell gift for Russia.

BERLIN — Angela Merkel's chancellorship comes to an end with a farewell present. Not for her, but from her: a gift for Vladimir Putin. The Russian President is the beneficiary of the compromise that Merkel has made with U.S President Joe Biden on Nord Stream 2 — the proposed Baltic Sea pipeline that will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany and the EU, bypassing countries like Poland and Ukraine.

American politicians across party lines have regularly criticized the pipeline as a devious Russian influence project that would entrench Europe's energy dependence, provide billions of dollars to the Kremlin, and make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression.

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Geopolitics
Kirill Krivosheev

As U.S. Pulls Out Of Afghanistan, Moscow Eyes Power Vacuum

To succeed in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan White House will need the active help of the Central Asian countries. However, with these post-Soviet republics in play, Russia wants a say.

MOSCOWWe've just witnessed several days of speculation that the planned Sep. 11 final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan might happen even earlier, after the main Bagram airbase was rapidly emptied. But that speculation was dispelled first by President Joe Biden and then by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who vowed an "orderly drawdown" over the coming weeks.

In preparation for the end of the operation, Washington has needed to coordinate with the post-Soviet republics that border Afghanistan, namely Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On July 1, the foreign ministers of these countries, Abdulaziz Kamilov and Sirodjiddin Mukhriddin met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The official reports from these meetings contain lengthy statements about "the importance of bilateral relations' as well as "efforts to achieve sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, Bloomberg and Reuters news agencies have both quoted State Department sources saying that Washington made a very concrete request: the United States asked Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, along with nearby Kazakhstan, to offer haven to some 9,000 Afghans who cooperated with NATO and may now be in danger. It would be a temporary asylum, while these people awaited approval for American visas.

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Geopolitics
Eduard Steiner

Russian Raw Materials Redux: Putin Economics Was Bound To Fail

The prices of oil, copper and aluminum are all on the rise, and on paper at least, that's great news for Russia. Leading economists, nevertheless, predict stagnation, and say Putin's system is to blame.

-Analysis-

This should be the dawn of a golden decade for Russia. Prices for key commodities such as copper and palladium are at an all-time high. The price of aluminum is again close to the highs of 2008, and even oil is selling at more than $70 a barrel. Russia is a leading exporter of all these things, and 20 years ago, a similar scenario brought the country a rapid upswing.

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Geopolitics
Alexander Demchenko

Putin's Blunt Message For Germany: Forget Ukraine

The Russian president's article on the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union can be read on multiple levels. But one thing is sure, his mind is fixed on the future.

KYIV — The title itself is catchy enough: "To be open despite the past." True, it had nothing to do with the War or post-War years. The article, printed in the German newspaper Die Zeit is rather a call to Germans to forget about the Ukrainian issue and to engage as soon as possible in real, profitable policies, such as the launch of Nord Stream.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to convince the Germans to be open-minded, regardless of the past. But the past he urges Germans to forget has nothing to do with Nazism. Here the Russian president understands that Germans are still bound by the politics of memory, and are unlikely to allow themselves to change history any time soon.

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Geopolitics
Sergey Lavrov

Lavrov To The West: Your Hegemony Is Over, Your Rules Don't Apply

In Moscow daily Kommersant, a long and fiery response from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the U.S. and European tactics during and after this month's Putin-Biden summit.

MOSCOW — The frank and generally constructive conversation at the June 16 summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden in Geneva resulted in an agreement to begin a substantive dialogue on strategic stability ... But almost immediately after the end of the summit, U.S. officials — including participants of the Geneva meeting — began to assertively return to their former attitude: "pointing out," "clearly warning" and making myriad demands on Moscow. Moreover, all these warnings were accompanied by threats: if Moscow didn't accept the rules of the game outlined for it in Geneva within several months, then it would be exposed to the new pressures.

Washington's instantly voiced backlash in the wake of the talks is quite indicative, especially since the European capitals, having caught the mood of big brother, immediately began to actively echo it — and with pleasure. The gist of their statements: They are ready to normalize relations with Moscow, but Moscow should change its behavior first.

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Geopolitics
Christian Putsch

Putin's Shadow Army: Russian Mercenaries Enter African Wars

BERLIN — It was late May, as 10,000 spectators arrived at Barthélemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, for a special film premiere. There was a red carpet for the VIPs arriving for the film "Tourist" — a feature that glorifies the use of Russian mercenaries, who heroically defend the local population from murderous rebels in a fictional African conflict.

According to the Russian media, the propaganda film was financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Kremlin-linked oligarch is considered the mastermind behind Russia's best-known mercenary outfit, the Wagner group. But their real activities in the Central African Republic contradict the movie script.

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THE MOSCOW TIMES
Meike Eijsberg

Moscow Mayor To Service Sector Workers: Get Vaccine Or Lose Your Job

In an unprecedented push to make vaccines obligatory, Moscow's mayor has told employees in the city that they will lose their jobs if they don't get vaccinated, Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad reports Monday in the latest move to try to curb the COVID-19 crisis spreading in the Russian capital.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin had already ordered employers of service sectors such as transportation, healthcare, education and hospitality to be sure that at least 60% of their workers were vaccinated by next month. But what was at first presented as a suggestion by employers is now to be made a requirement: those who refuse can be put on indefinite suspension with their salary withheld, while employers face a hefty fine.

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Geopolitics
Daniel-Dylan Böhmer and Clemens Wergin

Why Putin And Erdogan Are Both Going After Germany's Greens

On the Internet, Russian trolls are attacking the top candidate of the German Greens in the worst possible way. Attacks on Annalena Baerbock and other Green politicians also come from Turkey. Behind this is the concern about a green foreign policy.

BERLIN — By the time Annalena Baerbock had been tapped to be the Green party candidate for chancellor, she had already made clear her critical position on Russia. She'd lambasted the Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and demanded a reversal of support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Rising to the top of the Greens ticket, Baerbock began receiving targeted attacks across social media.

Among them was a purported nude photo of the politician, which in reality showed a Russian nude model who resembles Baerbock. There were also campaigns that tried to tie her to a left-wing world conspiracy in alliance with the billionaire George Soros. Initially, the Greens had considered these violent personal attacks against Baerbock were part of a pattern of misogyny.

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Geopolitics
Alexander Demchenko

What Ukraine Has To Lose In Biden-Putin Talks

Joe Biden's Geneva meeting with Vladimir Putin cannot avoid the Nord Stream 2 pipeline standoff. Kyiv will be watching every step.

KYIV — Before the series of visits and talks, President Joe Biden wrote in a column for the Washington Post that he wanted to improve relations with Russia, but was also ready to work with Europe to deal with Moscow's undermining of security on the continent — especially the so-called Ukrainian issue. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin practically expressed hope that the United States would disintegrate.

Ukraine's hopes are too high for the June 16 meeting between Putin and Biden in Geneva, Switzerland. It is good that the U.S. President found time to talk to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone before his talks with the Russian counterpart. This can only make us happy. It's a shame that our country has little to do here — and the White House has already shown this ahead of time by letting Russia complete the first section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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Geopolitics
Daniel Friedrich Sturm

Nord Stream 2: A Triangular Knot For U.S., Germany And Russia

An unavoidable topic for President Joe Biden's first foreign trip is Germany's support for the massive pipeline project that Washington believes makes Europe too dependent on Moscow.

BERLIN — It was a first in several ways when Lufthansa flight LH 9290 from Frankfurt landed at Washington's Dulles International Airport, last Tuesday at 3.42 p.m.: For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, several top German diplomats visited the American capital. Also, for the first time, Chancellor Angela Merkel"s foreign policy adviser Jan Hecker was ready to discuss the controversial topic of Nord Stream 2 face-to-face with leading representatives of President Joe Biden"s government.

Nord Stream 2, a system of offshore natural gas pipelines that runs from Vyborg, Russia to Greifswald, Germany, is the longest undersea pipeline in the world. Germany has long been reliant on Russia's energy supplies, but such dependence triggered U.S. concerns. The United States Senate levied a sanction last July on the Nord Stream 2 and the companies involved, but Germany was still sticking to the project.

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