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TOPIC: russians

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Goa Postcard: How Draft Dodgers And Pro-Putin Russians Both Landed On India's Scenic Coast

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, many Russians ordered to the front have fled to India’s scenic west coast. They enjoy sandy beaches, sun and a cheap life, but relations with pro-war Russians who have long settled there regularly disturb the peace.

MORJIM — From his terrace, in the shade of the coconut trees, Ivan* contemplates the Chapora river, which flows into the Arabian Sea just 100 or so meters away. Five months ago, this 42-year-old Muscovite set up home in Morjim, in the state of Goa, India.

He arrived in October, a few weeks after the mobilization decreed on Sept. 21 2022 by Vladimir Putin, when 300,000 fighting-age men were summoned to the army.

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The Geopolitical Relevance Of Misheard Sting Lyrics

"There is no Napoli on common sense?”

As a child, I learned English by listening to Sting’s songs and translating them. I remember being mesmerized by his voice and I also loved how clearly he would pronounce the words, which made it easy for me to understand.

That’s why I was amazed, to say the least, when Stefano told me:

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"We Trust Putin" — In Russia's Hinterland, Support For The War Is Stronger Than Ever

Thousands from Moscow and other major cities may have fled Russia to avoid mobilization, but that doesn't paint the full picture. In parts of the country far from the capital, Vladimir Putin still has strong support and no shortage of willing draftees.

UST-LABISNK — “There are no cowards here!"

Elena, around 30, has a stern gaze, and she doesn’t mince her words. "We're ready to go to Ukraine and fight the West!”

The "here" she's referring to is Ust-Labinsk, a small town with a population of fewer than 40,000 in Russia's southern agriculture region of Krasnodar.

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Far away from Moscow and the misgivings of the urban elite, support for Putin’s war remains strong in the Russian hinterlands.

When asked about the fighting in Ukraine, the locals immediately praise the “war” and speak of their pride in sending their men to the front.

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How Istanbul Became The Top Destination For Russians Fleeing Conscription

Hundreds of thousands of men have left Russia since partial mobilization was announced. Turkey, which still has air routes open with Moscow, is one of their top choices. But life is far from easy once they land.

ISTANBUL — Sitting on a bench in front of the Sea of Marmara, Albert tries to roll a cigarette despite the wind blowing his blonde hair strands. This 31-year-old political philosophy doctor is staying at a friend’s place in Kadıköy, a trendy neighborhood on the Asian bank of Istanbul and popular amongst expats.

On Friday, Sept. 23, Albert left Moscow, where he was visiting his parents, with two shirts and two pairs of pants hastily shoved in a backpack. “When I heard about the annexation referendums in the new Ukrainian territories, I knew the situation would get worse. I thought I had a few more days. But when Putin announced the partial mobilization on the morning of Sept. 21, I booked my tickets right away.”

Albert had tried to stir up a student movement against the war in St. Petersburg. He was arrested with his partner on Feb. 27, spent a night in jail and was fined a few hundred euros. They persevered and took part in protests but in April, while he was going to a demonstration, he was arrested once again. His detention lasted five days.

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Johannes Jauhiainen

Finland May Ban Tourist Visas For Russians In New Move By Nordic Neighbor

Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share. It would be a bold move.

HELSINKI — For Russians, particularly the rising middle class in and around the city of Saint Petersburg, Finland has become a favorite travel destination. The capital Helsinki is only a three-and-half hour train ride away, the scenic Finnish lakeside town of Imatra sits across the border from Svetogorsk and Russian skiers flock to Lapland mountain resorts each winter.

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But this tourist traffic may be about to vanish as a growing number of Finnish politicians are calling for restrictions on visas, a move that would broaden the scope of the sanctions against Russia to target ordinary people in addition to state enterprises, public officials and Oligarchs.

Such a clampdown would also come after the historic decision of Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia, to seek NATO membership (alongside Sweden) in response to the invasion of Moscow’s southern neighbor, Ukraine.

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Andrej Mrevlje

A Slavic Take On The Russian Complex Of Superiority

Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine has turned the world on its head. As shocking as it is, those closer to Russia sense something familiar in the past three months. This personal dispatch is about the Russians and the Slavs (I am the latter).


LJUBLJANA — I don’t have a great relationship with Russia. Growing up in Slovenia, I did not need to learn Russian to grasp the beauty of classic pre-Soviet literature. The translations of Russian masterpieces into my native language have been admirable.

But besides my proxy relation to Russian culture, I had very few run-ins with actual Russians since, to my knowledge, none of them lived in Slovenia. Well, except one: An athletically-built young man with long curly hair. I recall him mingling with the poets and other groups in a bohemian bar in Ljubljana. I forgot his name, but he disappeared from the scene after a few years. There was talk that he might have been a Russian intelligence officer or a drug pusher. But I had no idea. The matter never interested me enough to investigate further.

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During World War II, my parents took part in the resistance war against Nazi occupiers and spoke fluent German. As a consequence, German was the first foreign language I learned. But it was also the language I used the least. In high school, I learned English and French. I felt no attraction and no affinity to Russian, a language that I felt would be easy to grasp, something that, in a way, was too close and familiar.

But at the same time, there was always a great diffidence toward anything Russian. After the dispute between Joseph Stalin and Tito, and Yugoslavia’s exit from the Soviet bloc in 1948, both sides never recovered the comradeship from the revolutionary times of the Third International.

But to my mind, there was more to it.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Igor Lutsenko*

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger.

Russia May Allow Over-40s To Enlist, North Korea Refuses COVID Help, Mercedes Record

👋 Guten Tag!*

Welcome to Friday, where Russia intensifies shelling in eastern Ukraine, Biden lands in South Korea, and a Mercedes becomes the most expensive car ever sold. Meanwhile, for German daily die Welt, Cosima Lutz explores the sizzling question of the skyrocketing price of cooking oils.


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Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager and Evgeniya Pyatovskaya*

Mother Russia v. Big Macs And iPhones? Why Sanctions Are Bound To Fail

Western freedoms in Russia are only partially appealing, since historically, Russians never had them. Instead, the Russian people are patient, stoic and often irrationally devoted to their cruel motherland.


While Russia is leading a merciless war in Ukraine that has resulted in millions of Ukrainian refugees’ fleeing to neighboring countries, Western brands are on the exodus from Russia.

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The closure of over 800 McDonald’s restaurants particularly stands out: McDonald’s was the first American restaurant to open in Russia, in 1990. Its arrival symbolized Russia’s new pro-Western era.

That era is rapidly ending, giving way to a quickly spreading revival of Russian nationalism. Such nationalism is a direct outcome of the country’s economic suffocation through sanctions and the West’s broad rejection of Russia and its war with Ukraine.

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Marek Górlikowski and Paulina Siegień

Kaliningrad, Mother Russia's Rebellious Western Son

Nestled in between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, far from mainland Russia, Kaliningrad feels much more like Europe, and its residents are proud of its Western-like values.

KALININGRAD"Somewhere in the 39th kingdom," is how Russian tales often begin. It's also the perfect opening line for a story about Kaliningrad, the Russian Federation's 39th administrative region. Nestled in between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, this little Russian exclave straddles two very different realities.

If not for the grave of philosopher Immanuel expand=1] Kant, it would be difficult to single out the former Prussian Königsberg in the Soviet landscape of today's Kaliningrad. The city looks like a sea of post-Soviet towers. The concrete skeleton of the House of Soviets, built where an old Teutonic castle was demolished by Brezhnev's order, dominates the horizon. The project was never finished because of construction debacles.

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Nic Ulmi

Welcome to Gavdos, The Island Of Immortals

In the late 1990s, a group of Russian physicists settled on the Greek island of Gavdos. With the idea that they can program themselves not to die, they believe themselves immortal.

GAVDOS — The island first appears as a dark line on the horizon, offshore land debris southeast from the coastal village of Paleochora. Once you utter the island's name, Gavdos, everyone around you starts to behave differently: the car-rental agent, the hotel clerk, the innkeeper who served you a dinner of barley crispbread and octopus tentacles. Their faces light up as soon as they hear you say you are actually heading towards this mole-shaped emerging island in the Libyan sea.

To Cretans, Gavdos is a true gem, a kind of treasure island that attracts philosophical tourists, people who love quiet locations, and hippies living in shabby wooden cabins. It is also the immortals' island.

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