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Italy

Austria And Italy, Mixed Message

Many observers feared that yesterday would be the day that could rock the European Union to its core, six months after the Brexit referendum. Austria looked ready to elect Europe's first far-right president since the end of World War II. Meanwhile, Italy, a founding member of the EU, was expected to reject a proposed constitutional reform, paving the way for new elections and possibly an anti-EU government.


This morning, the best Brussels can do is a one-handed clap: The far-right candidate Norbert Hofer lost the Austrian presidency to his left-backed opponent Alexander Van der Bellen; but in Italy, where the vote actually mattered more, it was a "Triumph for the ‘No"," as La Repubblica puts it on its front page. Making good on his pre-vote pledge, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned, opening a period of uncertainty for Italy and, for many reasons, the EU itself.


The aftermath of the referendum could prove dramatic for Italy's third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which is saddled with bad loans and needs to raise more than $5 billion by the end of the month. Failure to raise that capital would likely trigger a banking crisis in what is Europe's second most indebted country after Greece.


That, added to what La Stampa"s editor-in-chief Maurizio Molinari describes as a "middle-class protest" behind the referendum result, provides a perfect stage for anti-establishment parties, especially the increasingly popular Five Star Movement led by former standup comic Beppe Grillo. "Italy needs a new welfare for families facing hardships, it needs a recipe to reignite economic growth and a formula for integrating migrants," Molinari warns in his post-referendum editorial. "The longer these questions are left unanswered, the wider the protest movement will grow, which could trigger a domino effect of unpredictable consequences. To relaunch Italy, a new government is simply not enough: The popular rebellion must be respected, and its demands must be met."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Decisive Spring? How Ukraine Plans To Beat Back Putin's Coming Offensive

The next months will be decisive in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. From the forests of Polesia to Chernihiv and the Black Sea, Ukraine is looking to protect the areas that may soon be the theater of Moscow's announced offensive. Will this be the last Russian Spring?

Photo of three ​Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Anna Akage

Ukrainian forces are digging new fortifications and preparing battle plans along the entire frontline as spring, and a probable new Russian advance, nears.

But this may be the last spring for occupying Russian forces.

"Spring and early summer will be decisive in the war. If the great Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the downfall of Russia and Putin," said Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

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Skinitysky added that Ukraine believes Russia is planning a new offensive in the spring or early summer. The Institute for the Study of War thinks that such an offensive is more likely to come from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk than from Belarus, as some have feared.

Still, the possibility of an attack by Belarus should not be dismissed entirely — all the more so because, in recent weeks, a flurry of MiG fighter jet activity in Belarusian airspace has prompted a number of air raid alarms throughout Ukraine.

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