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Bethany Wright

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Photo of Ukrainian soldiers sitting atop a tank near the Russian frontlines in Donbas on May 22
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The "Corrosion" Strategy: How Ukraine Targets Russian Networks And Morale

Russia continues to shrink its ambitions in Donbas, as Ukraine doubles down on its strategy of guerilla attacks, interrupting supply and communication contacts and ultimately undermines the morale of the enemy.

For years to come, military experts will be studying how Ukraine managed to push back a far stronger enemy and grind Russia’s major offensive in the east of the country to a halt.

Some military strategists are already trying to find a term to sum up the Ukrainians’ success. Australian military expert and retired army major general Mick Ryan credited Kyiv's stunning showing to "the adoption of a simple military strategy: corrosion. The Ukrainian approach has embraced the corrosion of the Russian physical, moral, and intellectual capacity to fight and win in Ukraine.”

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Ryan argues that while the Ukrainians have used the firepower they possess to halt the Russian advance, while aggressively targeting their enemy’s greatest shortcoming. “They have attacked the weakest physical support systems of an army in the field – communications networks, logistic supply routes, rear areas, artillery and senior commanders in their command posts,” Ryan wrote.

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Photo of a a person unloading packs of cooking oil, to be sold as as part of basic food packages at affordable prices in Indonesia
Economy

Fried And Drizzled: Soaring Cooking Oil Prices Spark New Ethical Questions

The price of cooking oils and fats has gone up dramatically. Indonesia has even banned exports of palm oil. Suddenly, what type of oil and how we use it to fry foods, dress salads and process products has become an ever more important question.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — In July 1940, 74 Swiss soldiers sat down to a meal of fried bread and cheese. Afterwards, they suffered severe – in some cases, irreversible – paralysis. The men, who became known as the “oil soldiers,” suffered from the after-effects their entire lives. They could not have known that the cooks had inadvertently added a poisonous machine gun coolant to the frying pans. The mineral oil mixed with tricresyl phosphate looked and tasted no different from standard cooking oil.

Humans and machines both need oil, but it’s not always clear from the look or taste which kind of oil should be used for which purpose. As long as there is enough cooking oil on supermarket shelves, discerning chefs make their choice based on taste, healthiness and environmental impact. Now, concerns around production, prices and health implications mean that, more than ever before, the choice of cooking oil is taking on a moral dimension.

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The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

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.

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Anti-nuclear bomb activists in Amsterdam.
Geopolitics

How Millennials And Boomers See Putin's Nuclear Threats Differently

Baby boomers who grew up under the threat of nuclear armageddon warn against a nuclear escalation of the war in Ukraine. But the younger generations are not cowed by Putin's blackmail. And that’s a very good thing.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — It is a sentence that no German Chancellor had ever had to utter before. “I am doing everything I can to prevent an escalation that would lead to World War III. There must not be a nuclear war,” said Olaf Scholz.

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​Photo of a Russian RS-24 Yars rolling past the review stand during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square
Geopolitics

"Just 106 Seconds To Berlin" - How Putin Exploits Europe's Nuclear Fears

Russian propaganda plays on the revival of the West’s fear of a nuclear attack, especially knowing how close European capitals are to Moscow's atomic warheads. But Europe must remember the lessons of the Cold War and not play into Putin's hands.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — “Take a look at this picture,” the expert on Russian state TV says excitedly. “There’s nothing they can do about it.”

On the screen is a diagram that shows how long it would take a Russian nuclear missile to reach various European capital cities from its base in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad: 106 seconds to reach Berlin, 200 to reach Paris. “Would you like to know about London? That would take 202 seconds,” the presenter says.

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This is not the first time that Russian TV has threatened the West with nuclear war. And the reaction from across Europe is clear – panic.

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Housefront of Tower block Colorium
Society

Beyond Bauhaus, The Case For Preservation Of Postmodern Architecture

Postmodern architecture has always been divisive, so how should we approach the preservation of this roundly unloved style described by everything from “kitsch” to “neoliberal”? Some experts would prefer to simply tear it down.

-Essay-

BERLIN — How do those charged with preserving historic buildings approach postmodern architecture? It seems they avoid it if possible. In Weimar, a city in central Germany, professors from the Bauhaus University and historic buildings experts debated the idea of “postmodern heritage” for three days – and could not agree which examples of postmodern architecture were worthy of protected status.

The conference’s media partner, online magazine moderneREGIONAL, set out to establish which examples of postmodern architecture might be classed as architectural heritage. But is the modern era of architecture even over? And have we seen the end of postmodernism? Aren’t both styles still flourishing alongside each other? At least when it comes to postmodernism, the conference’s organizers concluded that it was “not over yet and not likely to be over soon”.

What counts as “postmodern” in architecture? Of course, there was the clear break away from what is simplistically referred to as the Bauhaus style of white cubes, glass walls and flat roofs. The shift away from machine aesthetics, functionalism and rationalism. Suddenly facades were daubed with color, embellished with pillars, gables, canopies and cornices, and windows and doors gained ornamental details.

The clean, geometric lines of modernist cubes were livened up, embellished with poetic and historical elements. Buildings became approachable (some experts referred to a new “architecture parlante”), jokey and ironic – often leaning towards exaggeration, towards the carnivalesque. “For me it meant a new freedom of thought,” a white-haired participant at the Weimar conference said apologetically. He had experienced the architectural revolution as a student.

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Russian cartoon Masha and the Bear​
Society

Is Masha And The Bear Russian Propaganda, Cartoon-Style?

Packed full of Russian culture, the children’s cartoon “Masha and the Bear” is a very popular cultural export. But does that make the little girl and her furry friend pro-Putin propaganda? Reflections from a conflicted parent in Germany.

-Essay-

BERLIN — The worst aspect of parenthood is that at some point you realize you have become what you never wanted to be – your own parents. You say things to your children that you hated to hear when you were a child. And the first few notes of a cartoon’s theme tune are enough to set you on edge.

For my parents, it was “Tom and Jerry” and Udo Jürgen’s “Thank you for the flowers”. For me, all it takes is two seconds of the hyperactive brass section from the frenetic popular Russian cartoon series “Masha and the Bear”. And now unfortunately, I have to pay attention when it comes on.

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Because we must treat Masha with caution. At least, if we view the little girl in her traditional Russian smock, who lives in a gatekeeper’s cabin between the steppe and the woods in an unnamed part of today’s Russia, as part of the long arm of the Russian propaganda machine. And if we then decide that, given the mass killings committed by Russia in Ukraine, her rightful place is on the list of boycotted Russian cultural offerings, alongside the opera singer Anna Netrebko.

No one can honestly deny that the series – which started on the Russian internet in 2009 and is produced by the Moscow-based Animaccord Studio, which receives no state funding – is a cultural export in the same way as ballerinas and piano maestros, synonymous with Russia like vodka or Kalashnikovs. There have been 14 seasons so far (aimed at children aged 3 to 5), and the program is shown in 150 countries and more than 40 languages.

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Photo of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks at a press conference
Geopolitics

Criticized At Home And Abroad, Chancellor Scholz Jeopardizes Germany's Leadership In Europe

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s speech shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine was hailed as a “turning point”. But two months on, for some international commentators, the bubble has burst. Some believe this spells the end for Germany’s leadership role in Europe, while others are calling Scholz the country’s worst chancellor since 1949.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German government has come in for criticism from international commentators for its half-hearted support of Ukraine.

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Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a speech that was widely seen as a turning point, and both the German public and the international community believed it marked a new direction for German foreign policy — more money for the army and security, and taking more responsibility for areas of the world in crisis.

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Two Russian policemen arrest a protester.
Ideas

"You Need More Russians Like Me To Beat Putin" — A Response To My Ukrainian Critics

Marina Ovsyannikova's anti-war protest on Moscow’s state television made world headlines. Her story, and her new column in Die Welt, have prompted both admirers and critics. She insists on embracing all those ready to find the courage to take the risk to challenge Vladimir Putin.

-OpEd-

It is impossible to break my spirit. I know exactly what I have done, and the consequences it may bring. And I take full responsibility for my decision.

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Of course I wish I had quit earlier from Russia's state broadcaster Perviy Kanal (Channel One), where I'd worked up until my protest on the live nightly news of March 14. I should have left in 2014.

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Why Should We Give Military Support To Ukraine? Remember The Kurds
Ideas

Why Should We Give Military Support To Ukraine? Remember The Kurds

Six years ago, when ISIS attacked Kobanî, in Syria, the Kurds put up a heroic resistance, as the Ukrainians are doing now. But the city was only saved because the West supported the Kurdish fighters – support that is not forthcoming for Ukraine today.

-OpEd-

In October 2014, Islamic State (ISIS) fighters attacked the Kurdish-majority city of Kobanî in northern Syria with U.S.-manufactured heavy weapons, which they had seized earlier that year in the Battle of Mosul. As those defending the city were pushed back to a few remaining streets, Stéphane Charbonnier wrote a thought-provoking article in the left-leaning French daily newspaper L’Humanité.

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“I am not Kurdish, I can’t speak a single word of Kurdish, I cannot name a single Kurdish writer, I know nothing about Kurdish culture. But today I am Kurdish. I think in Kurdish, I speak in Kurdish, I sing in Kurdish, I weep in Kurdish. The besieged Kurds in Syria are not just Kurds; they are humanity fighting against the darkness. They are defending their lives, their families, their country, but whether they want to or not, they represent the last bulwark against the advance of the ‘Islamic State’. They are defending us, not against a distorted version of Islam, a religion that the terrorists of ISIS do not truly represent, but against barbarism and mob rule.”

Charbonnier, known by his pseudonym Charb, was editor-in-chief at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Four months after that article was published, he – along with nine of his colleagues and other victims – was murdered by this very same “barbarism and mob rule.”

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The Muravenik housing project in Kryvyi Rih.
Geopolitics

A Visit To Zelensky’s Hometown, As Russians May Be Set To Attack Again

The 44-year-old’s parents still live in the same apartment in Kryvyi Rih, where Russian troops attacked in the early days of the war before retreating. But with Putin's focus shifted eastward, the people who grew up with Zelensky brace for more attacks.

KRYVYI RIH — The housing project where President Volodymyr Zelensky grew up is called Muravenik, which means "anthill." The Anthill is circular and built like a fortress. The 10-story apartment blocks in this southeastern Ukrainian city date to the Soviet era, and you can tell. Large swathes of the outer cladding are missing. The old doors, windows and makeshift extensions give the whole housing complex a run-down look. In winter, the leafless trees and muddy grass add to the bleak atmosphere.

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It’s hard to believe that this is where the country’s president grew up.

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photo of a girl in a hat and a woman in a vest at poland-ukraine border
Migrant Lives

Ukrainians In 2022 vs. Syrians In 2015, Why Some Refugees Get A Warmer Welcome

As people open their homes to Ukrainian refugees, some in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are criticizing the lack of a similar welcome for Syrians in 2015. Do we have a responsibility to offer the same level of help to all those in need — and are we even capable of that? The answer might just be found in philosophy.

-Essay-

BERLIN — The war in Ukraine has moved many to open their homes to refugees, but this warm welcome has also sparked criticism, with some asking why so many Germans are now happy to have a Ukrainian under their roof when they wouldn’t have done the same for a Syrian in 2015.

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There are many reasons for this. Nigerian author Ayo Sogunro tweeted, “Can't get it out of my head that Europe cried about a 'migrant crisis' in 2015 against 1.4 million refugees fleeing war in Syria and yet quickly absorbed some 2 million Ukrainians within days, complete with flags and piano music. Europe never had a migrant crisis. It has a racism crisis."

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