Anne Sophie Goninet
June 16, 2015
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Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Welcome to Thursday, where more Ukrainian soldiers surrender in Mariupol, Sri Lanka defaults on its debt,and George W. Bush offers an epic geopolitical gaffe. Meanwhile, Lili Bai in Chinese-language digital media The Initium looks at what’s driving the current “expat exodus” at play in Shanghai.
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• More than 1,000 have surrendered in Mariupol: Russian authorities say that a total of 1,730 soldiers have now surrendered since Monday, after the Russian army took over the last holdout in the strategic port city.
• Shift to a “smaller” war: 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.
— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 85 —
• North Korea may have “welcome” Biden with missile tests: According to the White House, North Korea may be preparing for missile and nuclear tests in the next few days, as the U.S. President Joe Biden heads to South Korea and Japan on Friday.
• Sri Lanka defaults on debt for first time: Sri Lanka’s worst financial crisis in decades has caused the country to default on its debt for the first time in its history. The country is already in talks with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a bailout and find common ground with its creditors.
• China warns U.S. over Taiwan support: China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi warned the U.S. over its increased support for Taiwan which could “lead to a dangerous situation.”
• Global stock markets in hot water: Global stock markets fell sharply again as investors and traders fear rising inflation and stagflation and move back from riskier investments. On Wednesday, the U.S. Dow Jones set his highest drop since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
• Vincent Van LEGO: Danish toy maker LEGO has unveiled a new set, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 painting The Starry Night. Reproducing the masterpiece will take 2,136 bricks, $169.99, and a lot of patience.
Spanish daily ABC devotes its front page to the brief return of former king of Spain Juan Carlos to the country to visit his family, after spending nearly two years in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates. Carlos had abdicated in favor of his son in 2014 after a series of scandals, including a corruption investigation involving his daughter’s husband.
Finns are known to be stoic, hard-working people. They even have a word for it: “sisu” — which has no direct equivalent in English but conveys notions of determination and resilience in the face of adversity. “I think that every Finn has sisu in them,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in a recent interview, in the context of her country renouncing neutrality and applying to join the NATO military alliance. “No matter the difficulty of the time, we face it to ensure that the next generation has a better future,” she added.
Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. Some are planning on leaving the Chinese megacity within the next year, reports Lili Bai in Chinese-language digital media The Initium.
💼 According to China’s official statistics in 2021, there are more than 160,000 expats living in Shanghai, most of them working in finance, tech, internet and manufacturing. “(Shanghai is) the most open and tolerant city in China,” says Wilson, a Scot who has lived in Shanghai for 17 years. Félix arrived there in 2018, when he was 28. He works in a leading French tech company and has set a goal to stay in Shanghai for at least 10 years. But now, the six-week-long lockdown has shifted the landscape of the city, and expats like Félix and Wilson are thinking of ways to flee this city they once loved so much.
🤐 Wilson has realized recently that the positive sentiments he built up over 17 years for Shanghai could be undermined at any moment: a single concert could catch the attention of the police, a single retweet can get you noticed by public security, and a single policy can make homeless people freeze and ordinary people starve. “It is self-evident to us foreigners that public opinion is constantly being tightened in China. Everyone knows that the cost of communication and the risk is much greater nowadays than when I first came to Shanghai,” Wilson said.
✈️ In mid-April, “This is Shanghai,” a platform owned by HK Focus Media, conducted a survey of 950 foreigners living in Shanghai and found that the number of foreigners in the city may be reduced by half in the coming year, with 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year, if not immediately, while 37% said they would stay until the pandemic was over and see if the situation in Shanghai would improve before deciding whether to stay or go.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
A wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq — I mean, of Ukraine ... Anyway.
— Former U.S. President George W. Bush made an epic slip of the tongue during a speech Wednesday night. Speaking about Vladimir Putin, Bush said the systematic disqualification of political opponents resulted in “an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” Of course, if that war in 2003 was started by “one man,” his name was George W. Bush
✍️ Newsletter by Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
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.
Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.
India is raising the minimum age for women to marry. What does that mean on the individual level (with your parents whispering in your ear)?
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.