Welcome to Thursday, where The Washington Post identifies the source of the leak of Ukraine-related U.S. documents, a North Korean ballistic missile prompts the evacuation of Hokkaido, Japan, and Ghana becomes the first country to approve a new malaria vaccine. Meanwhile, Colombian daily El Espectador reports on why top chefs in Bogotá and other big cities are rediscovering and updating the country's traditional fare to celebrate local ingredients.
Is Russia's Defense Ministry using Bakhmut to eliminate the Wagner Group?
Even as Ukraine struggles to hold onto the last remaining bits of the eastern city, military experts say the official Russian military apparatus may have decided to rid itself of the Wagner mercenaries and bury them all in Bakhmut.
The infamous Wagner Group, whose fighters are accused of some of Russia's most horrific war crimes, has been engaged over the past two months in some of the fiercest fighting in the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. But the mercenary company, which boasts on a near daily basis that it is about to conquer the eastern city, is simultaneously facing the risk of demise and being disbanded because of Kremlin maneuvering, several military experts suggest.
Wagner fighters, many of whom were recruited from Russian prisons, are facing colossal losses in Bakhmut, and are increasingly short on ammunition and supplies. Some experts now believe the official Russian military may be deliberately under-supplying the mercenaries, hoping they will be wiped out.
Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, once a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been left out in the cold, reduced to complaining on social media that his fighters are dying en masse, starved of ammunition.
Alexander Kovalenko, a political-military columnist for the Information Resistance group, believes Prigozhin’s complaints may have some merit: “Today, the Russian occupation troops use the Wagner PMCs in the area of the Bakhmut bridgehead solely as a human shield,” Kovalenko said late last month.
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War came to a similar conclusion, suggesting in March that the Russian military is “prioritizing eliminating Wagner on the battlefields in Bakhmut.”
Prigozhin has clashed with senior Russian military commanders – and despite losing an untold number of soldiers to the deadly fighting in Bakhmut, he has failed to make real gains at the front. [...]
— Read the full Worldcrunch article by Anna Akage.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Report: U.S. documents leaked source revealed: The person who leaked the recent U.S. classified documents is a gun enthusiast in his 20s who worked on a military base, The Washington Post reports. In what appears to be the most serious leak of U.S. secrets in years, pictures of sensitive documents on the war in Ukraine were posted on Discord and other platforms such as Telegram. Authorities have not given a possible motive for the leak.
• Investigation into beheading video of Ukrainian soldier: Ukraine has launched an investigation into a video circulating on social media showing the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier. The Kremlin has called the footage “horrible” but said it needed to be verified. Meanwhile, a Russian defense official claimed that fighters from Russia’s paramilitary Wagner group have seized three more districts of Bakhmut.
• North Korea fires missiles, prompts evacuation of Hokkaido: North Korea fired a new model of long-range ballistic missiles, triggering fear in northern Japan. Japanese officials ordered Hokkaido residents to evacuate when the launch was detected before the weapon fell into the sea. The South Korean military said it was on high alert and coordinating closely with its main ally, the U.S., which "strongly condemned" the move.
• Qatar and Bahrain to restore ties: Delegates from Qatar and Bahrain met on Wednesday at the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat in the Saudi capital, Riyadh with the goal of resolving a years-long dispute and restoring diplomatic ties. This meeting comes amid a number of other efforts to resolve regional disputes, including between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
• China’s exports surge as economy rebounds from “zero COVID”: China’s exports have risen in March as the country continued to rebound from Beijing’s harsh “zero-COVID” pandemic policies. Total exports rose 14.8% year on year, customs data showed on Thursday, the first rise in six months and a sharp rise from March last year, when lockdowns damaged the economy.
• U.S. appeals court preserves limited access to abortion pill: The abortion pill mifepristone will remain available in the United States for now but with significant restrictions, including a requirement for in-person doctor visits to obtain the drug. The ruling late Wednesday temporarily narrowed a decision by a lower court judge in Texas that had completely blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the nation’s most commonly used method of abortion.
• Ghana first country to approve new malaria vaccine: Ghana is the first country to approve a new malaria vaccine. The vaccine, R21, appears to be much more effective than previous ones. Malaria kills about 620,000 people each year, most of them young children. Trial data from preliminary studies in Burkina Faso showed the R21 vaccine was up to 80% effective when given as three initial doses, and a booster a year later.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Porto-based daily Jornal de Notícias features an ominous-looking feminine figure in front of the University of Coimbra, as it reports on the sexual harassment scandal shaking Portugal’s education system. On Wednesday, Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Professor emeritus at the School of Economics at the University of Coimbra and one of the country’s most prominent left-wing intellectuals), was accused of sexual and moral harassment, which he denies. The case has prompted calls from students for better harassment reporting mechanisms in university.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
According to government data released yesterday, Japan's population fell by 556,000 people in 2022, a record-breaking drop. This is the 12th year in a row that the population has declined, primarily due to a decrease in the number of births. The total number of births in 2022 was fewer than 800,000, marking the first time on record, alongside an aging population.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Big city chefs rediscovering local ingredients, Colombia-style
Top chefs in Bogotá and other big cities in Colombia are rediscovering and updating the country's traditional fare to celebrate local ingredients, reports Julián López de Mesa Samudio in Colombian daily El Espectador.
🇨🇴 When people visit Colombia they are not looking for high-end salmon or French-style foie gras, because these are not the local fare. Even if someone is producing them, you can't find the same quality, or those cultural and environmental ties between any traditional food and its place of origin. Concerns like these have led to the rise of movements which seek healthier and more nutritious foods with a strong connection to a particular landscape, culture and community.
🍳 In the past decade, some of the gastronomy world's biggest prizes and awards have gone to restaurants and chefs who offer local and traditional foods, reuse ingredients, cut waste or use strictly traceable ingredients. The idea is to make the farm-to-table chain as short and local as possible, ideally with no more than one or two links between producer and consumer.
🍽️ Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of a travel destination is the opportunity to enjoy slow-cooked, home-style meals, typically mixing traditional know-how with some modern techniques. These might be the fare to serve a group of diners, in a setting that recalls a home, a family meal or get-together with friends.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
📹 THIS HAPPENED VIDEO — TODAY IN HISTORY, IN ONE ICONIC PHOTO
➡️ Watch the video: THIS HAPPENED
Áras an Uachtaráin
U.S. President Joe Biden continues his four-day visit to Ireland. After visiting Belfast, where he commemorated 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, he is in Dublin today: First stop is Áras an Uachtaráin (pronounced “aw-rahs on ookh-thahr-awn”), which translates to "residence of the president" in Gaelic. The place will hold a special significance for Irish-American Biden, as some believe that the Irish-born architect of the White House, James Hoban, used the building as inspiration for the White House.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
Climate activists belonging to the Letzte Generation group smeared the Berlin office of Germany’s FDP party with oily paint to protest the government’s climate protection policy. — Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Hugo Perrin, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Shaun Lavelle
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