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Geopolitics

Syrian Leaders Hedge Their Bets, Transfer Fortunes

As repression grows more and more violent, Syrian leaders have reportedly been discreetly preparing to transfer portions of their fortunes abroad. But is it a sign President Assad is preparing to flee?

Assad (newtown grafitti)
Assad (newtown grafitti)

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

How can we gauge the Syrian regime's confidence that it can hold on to power? One way is to follow the money.

While the harsh repression continues against the popular uprising, well-informed sources in Damascus say that Syrian political leaders and businessmen recently met with four Turkish financiers based in Germany and The Netherlands. President Bachar al-Assad and members of his inner circle – including his cousin and the country's most powerful businessman, Rami Makhlouf -- may be preparing the foreign transfer of $250 million in financial assets. At least two transfers, totaling $59 millions, are scheduled to be made to accounts in Malaysia, the sources say.

Syrian leaders are also said to be looking for ways to relocate their assets through a Turkish NGO said to have links to radical Islamic groups. Turning to Turkey would be surprising given recent comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who described the Syrian repression as "appalling." The Turkish leader recently asked his former ally to stop targeting civilians.

Over the years, Syrian military and political leaders are suspected of having accumulated billions of dollars through corruption. Indeed, if just $250 million has been transferred outside of the country in recent weeks, insiders say it is a sign that the regime is still quite confident of its survival.

Read the full version in French by Yves Bourdillon

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

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Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

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