Will Putin's ICC arrest warrant reignite the nuclear threat? One plain reason not to worry
The war crimes arrest warrant issued by the Hague puts the pressure on the Russian president. Would that prompt him to follow through on his past threats to use nuclear weapons? An extensive investigation by independent Russian publication Project.Media into Putin's life finds that he has other priorities closer to home, writes Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage.
Over his 23 years in power, Vladimir Putin has gone from a young liberal politician to an authoritarian dictator.
Before becoming president, Putin was a mediocre KGB officer who'd earned him the nickname "Moth" and worked with St. Petersburg thugs on low-level missions. There was no outward sign that he would evolve into the image of a global ideological leader for Russians, and enemy No. 1 of the civilized world.
His failure to conquer Ukraine and open conflict with the West have prompted him to repeatedly make reference to Russia's nuclear arsenal. Fears and threats of the nuclear option may be revived after Friday's decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for the Russian President for alleged war crimes, including claims of the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
Moscow has denied the accusations, and denounced the warrants as "outrageous." While some debate whether Putin can actually be arrested, there is also the question of what the Kremlin would do in response. How obsessed is Putin in punishing the West? How far could a cornered Putin go?
While the questions have political aspects, they are also fundamentally personal. And it's worth turning to a recent investigation by the independent Russian publication Proekt.Media into Putin's life. It is not the portrait of the nation's permanent ruler and ideologue of the Russian people, but as a man.
Vladimir Putin and his official mistress, Alina Kabaeva, a Russian gymnast and Olympic medalist, own a castle in Sochi, a complex of villas in Valdai, a castle in Gelendzhik, a 2,600 square meter apartment with a swimming pool, movie theater, patio and helipad, and many smaller properties.
But many of these residences are empty. Kabaeva has never visited the Sochi property; instead, she hides her infant children from the world in her Valdai castle, where she lives guarded by an air defense system.
The interiors of Putin's favorite residences are striking, even to baroque aficionados: gold mosaics, precious stones and all the accouterments of royal life.
A dedicated railroad line connects the Valdai and Sochi residences, since Putin seems afraid of flying lately and travels around Russia exclusively by armored train. Journalists also learned that the president is so scared of terrorist attacks that his presidential limousine follows Putin on a military plane to places the train cannot reach.
To maintain a luxurious life for himself and his family, Putin has a "wallet" — the Cyprus-registered company Ermira Consultants Ltd. — and people to manage his finances. [...]
— Read the full Worldcrunch article by Anna Akage.
• Xi Jinping in Moscow after Putin’s visit to Mariupol: China’s President Xi Jinping is in Moscow for a two-day visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is the Chinese leader’s first visit to Russia since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin paid a surprise visit Sunday to Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city captured a year ago by Russia. This is believed to be his first trip to a newly-occupied Ukrainian territory.
• Central banks rush to keep cash flowing: Central banks have rushed to keep cash flowing through the world’s financial systems after the failures of two U.S. banks and the rescue of Credit Suisse by UBS group. Still, banking stocks and bonds hit a new low as the trading week opened, with UBS shares falling by as much as 16% in early trading.
• Netanyahu announces softening of judicial changes plan: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a softening of his hard-right government's judicial overhaul plan in an attempt to calm more than two months of nationwide protests. This came after a call with U.S. President Joe Biden to seek compromise and consensus in order to avoid a constitutional crisis.
• French government faces no confidence vote today: The French government will face a no-confidence vote today, as several members of Parliament said they feared for their safety as anti-government protests continue to spread. Opposition politicians have filed two no-confidence motions in protest of French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to push through an unpopular rise in the pension age without a parliamentary vote.
• India manhunt for Sikh separatist: A manhunt for Amritpal Singh, a hardline Sikh preacher in India, has entered its third day as authorities shut mobile internet across Punjab state and arrest more than 100 of his supporters. Singh, who advocates for the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, led a raid last month on a police station together with some of his supporters.
• Ex-Australian soldier charged with war crime over Afghan killing: A 41-year-old former member of the Australian military has been charged with a war crime over the killing of an Afghan civilian following a joint investigation between the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) and the Australian Federal Police. If found guilty, the veteran, who is the first serving or former member of the Australian military to face war crimes charges, could face a life sentence.
• MET under fire: An investigation coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists identified more than 1,000 artifacts owned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art linked to indicted or convicted traffickers — including 309 currently on display. While the Met has voluntarily returned some items, governments and law enforcement officials have seized others.
Swiss daily Le Temps devotes its front page to the takeover of Credit Suisse by Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, in an emergency rescue deal for the sum of 3 billion Swiss Francs ($3.25 billion) amid severe financial panic generated by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank earlier this month.
15.68 million tons
Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia as China's top oil supplier with 15.68 million tons of oil imported in January-February, up 23.8% from the same period last year. This shift highlights China's growing reliance on Russia for energy and Russia's increasing share of the global oil market, partly due to cooperation with OPEC. The significance is also underscored by China's rising demand for oil, while tensions between China and Saudi Arabia have been on the rise in recent years.
How climate change may be triggering more earthquakes — and vice versa
Researchers have identified a possible link between climate change and the frequency of earthquakes — and the quakes may also start a vicious circle of accelerating climate change, reports Paul Molga in French daily Les Echos.
🌍❄️ Scientists are wondering about the impact of glacial melt on the Earth's mantle. "The ice is holding back large parts of the Earth's crust locally," says geophysicist Andrea Hampel. Together with her colleagues from the Ruhr University in Bochum in Germany, she has discovered that the weight of the large glaciers on the earth slows down the movement of the continental plates.
⚠️ According to the team’s simulation, the vertical pressure exerted by the ice could have prevented the spontaneous sliding of continental plates along geological faults. But like a spring, the mechanical tensions due to the movements of the earth's crust continued to accumulate and were released when the ice melted, causing more frequent and intense earthquakes in Northern Europe.
🌡️ Can the same phenomenon occur more widely today with global warming? Some researchers say so and speculate that this mechanism has already begun to take place, notably in Alaska. It is there that we find the largest glaciers in the world extending over several hundred square kilometers and hundreds of meters thick. In 200 years, they have lost more than 5,000 km2 of ice.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
“We will not allow them to continue sowing anxiety and terror.”
— Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced on Twitter that he was suspending a bilateral ceasefire with the country’s largest drug cartel, Clan del Golfo, that had been agreed in December. The president is accusing the criminal group of violating the ceasefire, citing violence on police forces and inciting protests from gold miners.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
People flock to the Mahabaruni bathing festival in West Tootpara, Bangladesh. About one million pilgrims are estimated to have taken part in this 200-year-old “sacred bath” ritual. — Photo: Md Harun Or Rashid/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Ginevra Falciani, Inès Mermat, Hugo Perrin and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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