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Pope Francis at the swearing-in ceremony for the Vatican's Swiss Guard
Pope Francis at the swearing-in ceremony for the Vatican's Swiss Guard

Welcome to Friday, where a shooting at a favela in Rio kills 25, the Pfizer jab shows promising results against COVID variants, and pizza vending machines arrive in Rome. We also look at how central banks are finally starting to take an interest in cryptocurrencies.

• COVID-19: Pfizer vs. variants, pandemic Olympics: Two different studies show that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is highly effective in preventing death and serious illness from the English and South African variants. Meanwhile, with less than three months to go before the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan has decided to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency until May 31st.

• 25 killed in Brazilian police raid: A police raid against suspected drug traffickers in the favela of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro has left 25 dead, among the bloodiest assaults ever by Brazilian authorities long accused of excessive violence.

• Poland and Hungary block "gender equality" phrase: Lobbying by the two central European countries has resulted in the removal of the phrase "gender equality" in a draft declaration on social cohesion that the European Union is due to publish, according to documents seen by Reuters.

• Scotland election could lead to vote on independence: Results from the Scottish election are expected later today. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, slated to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP), has vowed to push for another referendum on Scottish independence if her party wins a majority of seats.

• Chinese rocket debris to land this weekend: China's Long March 5B rocket, currently in the upper atmosphere, is set to make an uncontrolled landing this weekend. There are still no clear predictions regarding whether it will land on inhabited land. The U.S. has called on China to engage in more "responsible space behaviors," but has not announced any plans to shoot down the debris.

• European leaders urge Israel to stop settlement expansion: European countries including France and Germany have urged Israel to stop settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

• Fresh pizza vending machines are coming to Italy: Rome has inaugurated a pizza vending machine that provides cooked pizzas in only three minutes.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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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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