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People flee their homes in Makassar City, eastern Indonesia, where heavy rains have caused massive floods during monsoon season.
People flee their homes in Makassar City, eastern Indonesia, where heavy rains have caused massive floods during monsoon season.

Welcome to Friday, where additional countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine, Alexei Navalny's whereabouts are unknown, and South Africa mourns the King of the Zulu. Argentine daily Clarin also shares the story of a legendary Buenos Aires ice cream shop, which has been forced to close for good.

• More countries halt AstraZeneca vaccine: Following Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, Thailand becomes the first Asian country to suspend the vaccine over sporadic reports that it produces blood clots, and at least one death attributed to an AstraZeneca vaccination.

• Turkey and Egypt resume diplomatic contact: The two nations have had their first diplomatic contacts since 2013 when two of the world's largest Muslim-majority nations broke off ties over the war in Libya.

• Alexy Navalny moved from jail: The Kremlin critic and democracy activist has been moved from jail and his whereabouts are currently unknown, according to his lawyers.

• Prince William denies racism: Asked by a journalist about recent allegations by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry & Meghan), Prince William responded that the British royals were "very much not a racist family.".

• South Africa King dies: The King of the Zulu people Goodwill Zwelithini has died from diabetes, aged 72.

• Myanmar court extends detentions: Myanmar's military has extended detentions of six journalists, claiming that the journalists provoked unrest when covering the protests. They have not had access to lawyers.

• JPG file sells for $69 million: A digital collage by the artist "Beeple," called Everydays — The First Five Thousand Days has sold for $69 million, breaking a record in the world of digital art.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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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.

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