CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
🗞 🇺🇦The EU says yes to Ukraine. 🪆Putin denounces US as “fading power.” 🇮🇳Massive protests in India. 🇮🇷 Massive protests in Iran. 📈 Inflation everywhere. A silverback gorilla–and much more. 🦍
🇪🇺🇺🇦🇫🇷🇩🇪🇮🇹 EU’s Big Three and Romania endorse Ukraine’s EU candidate status. And Moldova’s, too:
By proclaiming their support for Ukraine and Moldova becoming official candidates for EU membership, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy on Thursday sent an unequivocal message to Vladimir Putin: the Soviet sphere of influence is dead—and it will not be resurrected by force.
The leaders—French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi—also delivered another even more pointed and immediate message to Russia: The EU and its allies will not strongarm Ukraine into any surrender or territorial compromise to end the war.
🇪🇺🇺🇦 “It’s the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer,” Zelensky wrote on social media, adding that he was “grateful” to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and “each EC member for a historic decision.”
🇫🇷 Macron said Ukraine “must resist and win.”
Ahead of the meeting with Zelensky, the leaders visited the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, where Macron said that there are signs of war crimes following “massacres” by Russian forces. He denounced the “barbarism” of the attacks that devastated the town, and praised the courage of residents of Irpin and other Kyiv region towns who held back Russians forces from attacking the capital.
“It’s here, among other places, that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending onto Kyiv,” the French leader said. “It represents the heroism of the army, but also of the Ukrainian population. And alongside that, you have traces of barbarism.”
🇪🇺 Ursula von der Leyen: “We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective, we want them to live with us, the EU.”
🇪🇪🦸♀️ Ukraine’s allies need to accelerate their military assistance and other forms of aid before war fatigue takes hold in the West and Russia makes territorial gains that could become permanent, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said.
Before the ceremony and the serious meetings about war, the European leaders witnessed the devastation wrought by Russia. A must. To understand Ukraine’s fight for survival, they had to see it themselves, with their own eyes. The blown-up buildings. The smashed cars. And a message of hope spray-painted on a damaged building despite mounting Ukrainian deaths. French President Emmanuel Macron spotted it immediately amid the ruins Thursday.
“Look at that, ‘Make Europe, not war,’” Macron said, pointing and reading the words out loud in English. “It’s very moving to see that.”
“This will mean more NATO forward-deployed combat formations, to strengthen our battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, more air, sea and cyber defenses, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapons stockpiles,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
🇷🇺⛽️⛔️ Meanwhile, Russia cuts the West’s gas supplies. Just to make a point.
Moscow turned up the pressure on the Western allies, sharply reducing flows of natural gas in its pipelines to Western Europe, driving up energy prices.
🇷🇴🔌 Could Romania become a regional energy powerhouse and save Europe’s bacon?
The nuclear complex was conceived during the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, the Communist dictator who ran Romania for a quarter century before he was overthrown and executed in 1989. Mr. Ceausescu’s strategy was to insulate Romania from the influence of the Soviet Union by having it generate its own electricity. More than 30 years on, as much of Europe looks to cut ties to Russia’s energy, Romania is benefiting from Mr. Ceausescu’s thinking. The two reactors very cheaply supply about 20 percent of Romania’s electricity.
🇳🇱🕵🏽🪆🐍👀 The Dutch intelligence service caught a GRU agent trying to infiltrate the International Criminal Court:
Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov created an elaborate cover story dating back years to try and enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship at the Hague-based ICC in April … “This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money.”
🇳🇱🕵🏽🪆🐍🇧🇷👀 They released his cover story. He’s a full-fledged illegal:
Illegals: extensively trained intelligence officers
… Cherkasov used a well-constructed cover identity by which he concealed all his ties with Russia in general, and the GRU in particular.
An officer of this kind is better known as an “illegal”: an intelligence officer who received a long and extensive training. Because of their alias identity, illegals are difficult to discover. For that reason they often remain undetected, allowing them to carry out intelligence activities. Because they present themselves as foreigners, they have access to information that would be inaccessible to a Russian national. In addition to the GRU, the Russian intelligence service SVR also makes use of illegals.
The GRU’s main focus is on gathering military intelligence, but it also collects intelligence that is more political or technological in nature. The GRU not only collects information, its officers also carry out covert influencing operations.
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court investigates possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. The ICC is also investigating war crimes that took place during the Russian war in Georgia in 2008. For those reasons, covert access to International Criminal Court information would be highly valuable to the Russian intelligence services.
The illegal was supposed to commence an internship with the ICC, which would mean he would have access to the ICC’s building and systems.
Years and years of investment blown. The Russians must be blowing a gasket—Claire.
One consequence of Macron’s perceived waffling on Russia is that the questions and doubts about the EU’s ability to guarantee security will harden, particularly among the Eastern European member states that feel most threatened by Moscow. With Brexit having removed the U.K. from the EU, France now has the largest and most potent military in the bloc. If the EU is to have a notable and independent security role, France will be critical to establishing it and backing it up. But Macron’s response to the war in Ukraine could lead to a fissure in the union, one that divides Western European countries, like France, that view Russia as a threat to be managed and Eastern European countries that see Russia as a threat to be deterred. (I’d say this has already happened—Claire.)
🇫🇮🇷🇺⛔️ Finland prepares to close border with Russia. The Administrative Committee of the Finnish Parliament supported the proposal to close the border with Russia in case of hybrid threats emanating from Moscow. (In Russian.)
🇪🇪💶⛽️📈 Estonia faces a tough winter next year. The highest inflation rate in the eurozone is going to collide with energy shortages owing to Putin’s war.
🇬🇧🇺🇸🕵️♂️᪢ UK clears Assange’s extradition to US.
🇩🇪🇧🇦🪖 The German government approved the deployment of up to 50 soldiers to join a European Union military mission in Bosnia.
🇧🇬🗳 Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s coalition faces a no-confidence vote. The opposition blames the government for galloping inflation.
🇬🇷👨🏻⚖️ An Athens court began hearing appeals against the convictions, 18 months ago, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party members. The neo-fascist group was deemed a criminal organization:
Most of the imprisoned defendants were absent, including Giorgos Roupakias, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas, as well as GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos. … The appealing defendants number around 50, most of whom are facing serious charges, such as being members of a criminal organization, homicide, attempted homicide and others.
Le Maire had hoped to make the tax deal a crowning achievement of France’s six-month EU presidency, which concludes at the end of the month. Friday’s meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg was Paris’ last chance to seal the deal. That job will now go to the Czechs, who take over in July—but only if they can convince Budapest to retract its veto.
Commerce Department agents who enforce export controls are conducting the inquiries together with the FBI, paying joint visits to companies to ask about Western chips and components found in Russian radar systems, drones, tanks, ground-control equipment and littoral ships.
🇺🇸🇸🇪🇷🇺 The United States slapped sanctions on white nationalists from Russia and Sweden:
After decades focused on Islamist extremism, the United States has increasingly identified a threat from the far right, classifying in 2020 the Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization, the first such action against a white supremacist group. The State Department on Wednesday designated as a terrorist Anton Thulin, a Swede who allegedly traveled to Saint Petersburg for paramilitary instruction by the Russian group.
🔥🚒 The Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration reported on Telegram that a fire has broken out at the Coagulant chemical plant in the town of Polohy in Zaporizhia Oblast.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday reprised his critique of the United States as a declining power that treats its allies as colonies, while declaring itself exceptional and “the messenger of the Lord on Earth.”
“If they are exceptional, then that means that everyone else is second-class,” Mr. Putin said of the United States in an address that the Kremlin had billed as “extremely important” at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum — an annual business conference once known as “Russia’s Davos.” … “Russia is entering the approaching epoch as a powerful, sovereign country,” Mr. Putin said. “We will certainly use the new, colossal opportunities that this era is opening in front of us and will become even stronger.”
🌾🇺🇸 Putin blamed the US for grain market disruption. He also told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that Russia wasn’t to blame for rising prices on the global grain market, and that in fact the US was driving up prices by printing money and “snapping up” food on global markets.
👩🏻💻🎮🖕🏼 The Kremlin said the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum had suffered from a denial of service cyberattack on its accreditation system, forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to delay his scheduled address denouncing the US as a fading world power by one hour.
📉 Russia’s economy may need a decade to return to the pre-sanctions levels of 2021, the chief executive of the country’s top bank Sberbank said:
German Gref, whose bank is seen as a proxy for the Russian economy by holding the majority of the household deposits and corporate loans, estimated on Friday that countries that hit Russia with sanctions accounted for 56 percent of its exports and 51 percent of imports. “This is a threat to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the bulk of the economy is under the fire,” Gref, a former economy minister, told Russia’s annual international economic forum in St. Petersburg. “As a result—and if we do nothing—we may need around a decade to return economy to the 2021 levels,” Gref said, calling for structural reforming of the Russian economy.
🇷🇺🚢🌾🇸🇾 Russian-flagged ships have been carrying grain harvested in Ukraine last season and transported it to Syria, US satellite imagery company Maxar said.
Putin’s aggressive autocracy reduces Russian soft power to ashes. The assault on Ukraine is causing a sharp cultural break with the West that may last far into the future.
The so-called russky mir, or “Russian world,” conceived as something culturally bigger than the Russian Federation, is being sacrificed on the altar of autocracy and Russian ethnicity. This vision is shorn of any appeal to universal values and all attractiveness to Russia’s neighbours. Putin’s desperate attempt to grab Ukrainian lands is a show of strength that comes at the cost of the collapse of Moscow’s soft power. With the assault on Ukraine, he has cut Russia’s ties to Europe by making Europeans disgusted with the country.
“Russia isn’t squeaky clean. Russia is what it is & we’re not ashamed of showing who we are.” In an exclusive interview, I question Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Producers @BBCWillVernon @LizaShuvalova Cameras @AntonChicherov @LizaVereykina pic.twitter.com/yFccy6Vtiu
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) June 16, 2022
🖊 NB: For detailed daily updates on the war, CG highly recommends Monique Camarra’s EuroFile.
👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻 How Ukraine will win: Kyiv’s theory of victory, by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba:
As fatigue grows and attention wanders, more and more Kremlin-leaning commentators are proposing to sell out Ukraine for the sake of peace and economic stability in their own countries. Although they may pose as pacifists or realists, they are better understood as enablers of Russian imperialism and war crimes. …
… Russia’s current invasion is graver than its past one, and the world cannot afford to turn away. That’s because Russian President Vladimir Putin does not simply want to take more Ukrainian territory. His ambitions don’t even stop at seizing control of the entire country. He wants to eviscerate Ukrainian nationhood and wipe our people off the map, both by slaughtering us and by destroying the hallmarks of our identity. He is, in other words, engaged in a campaign of genocide.
To avoid growing weary of the war and falling for misleading narratives, the West needs to understand exactly how Ukraine can win, and then support us accordingly. This war is existential, and we are motivated to fight. Properly armed, our forces can stretch Putin’s troops—which are already exhausted—past the breaking point. We can counterattack Russian forces in both Ukraine’s south and Ukraine’s east, pressuring Putin to decide which of his gains to protect. To succeed, however, the United States and its European allies must swiftly supply our country with appropriate numbers of advanced heavy weapons. They must also maintain and increase sanctions against Russia. And, critically, they need to ignore calls for diplomatic settlements that would help Putin before he makes serious concessions.
🏥 The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine is “extremely alarming” and continues to deteriorate.
⛑ About 10,000 civilians are trapped in Severodonetsk, a regional governor says. Russian forces say they will reopen a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the city’s Azot chemical plant, but an evacuation was also planned yesterday and failed to materialize. All of the bridges connecting the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk have been destroyed.
There have been alarming warnings from Ukraine that the flow of weapons from Western countries is too little and too late. As Russia continues to bombard the Donbas, pleas for more help are sounding more desperate by the day. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister says that, so far, the country has only received 10 percent of what it has asked for.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser President Zelensky, said that to end the war, Ukraine needed 1,000 caliber 155mm howitzers (long-range artillery launchers), 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones. (SEND THEM—Claire.)
💣 Russia kills hundreds of Ukrainian civilians with cluster bombs. Amnesty reports indiscriminate firing of cluster munitions in Kharkiv, killing people in homes, playgrounds and shops. (Paywalled.)
Russian forces have used at least seven types of antipersonnel mines in at least four regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Sumy. This marks an unusual situation in which a country that is not party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty uses the weapon on the territory of a party to the treaty.
Before the war with Russia, the yearnings of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority were mostly brushed off as benign nostalgia for a time when they lived in one nation with other ethnic Hungarians. Now, divided loyalties within the tiny community—which has soaked up Hungary’s ambivalence toward Russia’s invasion—are being seen as something more worrisome by their fellow Ukrainians, some of whom fear they are susceptible to pro-Russia propaganda from Hungary.
The latest package, the US said, includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that US forces are training Ukrainian troops on now. All are key weapons systems that Ukrainian leaders have urgently requested as they battle to stall Russia’s slow but steady march to conquer the eastern Donbas region.
The aid is the largest single tranche of weapons and equipment since the war began. Biden, who spoke by phone with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for about 40 minutes Wednesday, also said the US will send US$225 million more in humanitarian assistance to provide safe drinking water, medical supplies, food, health care, shelter and money for families to buy essential items.
🪖 Representatives from more than 50 nations pledged to get more military capabilities into the hands of Ukrainian forces at a meeting in NATO’s Brussels headquarters.
🇹🇷🌾🇺🇳🇷🇺🇺🇦 Turkey says it’s prepared to host four-way talks with the UN, Russia and Ukraine to unblock the passage of grain through the Black Sea.
🇺🇸🌾 The US announced a three-year agriculture partnership with Ukraine to address the food crisis.
🇬🇧 Boris Johnson is meeting Zelensky in Kyiv, his second trip there since the invasion.
- 🥳🧵 How Boris Johnson’s calls with President Zelensky have been announced just after the PM’s biggest crises.
- Over the last 24 hours, Russian forces have likely continued to attempt to regain momentum on the Popasna axis, from which they seek to surround the Severodonetsk pocket from the south.
- In Russia, the war has accelerated the state’s long-term trajectory toward authoritarianism. In recent weeks, the Duma has started the process to introduce a twenty-year sentence for Russians who fight against the Russian Federation.
- Speaking out against the invasion is also being criminalized. Despite the majority of Russians telling pollsters they support the “special military operation,” elements of the population both actively and passively demonstrate their opposition.
- The “Freedom for Russia Legion,” recruited from Russians, has almost certainly deployed in combat alongside the Ukrainian military. Some high profile Russian officials have highly likely been side-lined after criticizing the war.
- Scepticism about the war is likely also particularly strong amongst Russia’s business elite and oligarch community. Migration applications suggest that 15,000 Russian millionaires (in US dollars) are likely already attempting to leave the country.
- Motivations highly likely include both personal opposition to the invasion and an intent to escape the financial impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia. Should this exodus continue, it will likely exacerbate the war’s long-term damage to Russia’s economy.
- The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, and Romania committed to Ukrainian officials that the West would not demand any concessions from Ukraine to appease Russia and will support Ukraine to the end of the war during a visit to Kyiv on June 16. French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France, Germany, Italy, and Romania are “are doing everything so that Ukraine alone can decide its fate.” Macron added that Ukraine “must be able to win” and pledged to provide six more self-propelled howitzers. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Germany will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, and weapons assistance for “Ukraine’s war of independence.” Macron, Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis additionally vowed to back Ukraine’s bid to become an official candidate for European Union membership. Sustained Western military support to Ukraine will be essential to enable Ukrainian forces to liberate Russian-occupied territory.
- Ukrainian defense officials explicitly requested Western heavy artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles, and multiple-launch rocket systems ahead of a protracted war. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Denys Sharapov and Land Force Command Logistics Commander Volodymyr Karpenko stated that Ukrainian forces need hundreds of artillery systems, including infantry fighting vehicles and tanks, as Ukrainian forces have suffered 30 percent to 50 percent equipment losses in active combat. Sharapov and Karpenko noted that Ukrainian forces need Predator drones and loitering munitions to accurately strike Russian forces. Sharapov and Karpenko also asked for long-range precision weapons such as MLRS to defend the entire 2,500 kilometer frontline in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces have already committed about 330,000 servicemen to their invasion of Ukraine without conducting partial or full-scale mobilization in Russia. Ukrainian General Staff Main Operations Deputy Chief Oleksiy Gromov stated that Russian forces grouped 150,000 servicemen into battalion tactical groups and other formations and involved additional 70,000 troops from air and sea elements, with the remaining personnel staffing non-combat support units. Gromov noted that Russian forces committed more than 80,000 servicemen of the mobilized reserve, up to 7,000 reservists of the Russian Combat Army Reserve (BARS-2021), up to 18,000 members of the Russian National Guard (Rosguardia), and up to 8,000 troops from private military companies. Gromov did not specify if Ukrainian officials included information about forcibly mobilized servicemen in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) in these numbers. Gromov noted that the Kremlin may still increase the number of Russian military personnel in Ukraine by executing covert or full mobilization. Gromov noted that while it is unknown if the Kremlin will declare mobilization, Russian forces will still need time to execute the deployment and training of the new personnel whether or not the Kremlin announces full mobilization.
- Russian forces continued to launch ground assaults on Severodonetsk and settlements along the Ukrainian ground lines of communication to Lysychansk. Ukrainian military intelligence reported that Russian forces are no longer operating as concrete battalion tactical groups, as ISW previously assessed.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northwest of Slovyansk, while Ukrainian forces reportedly resumed preparations for counteroffensives west of Izyum.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in clashes north and northeast of Kharkiv City, though no significant territory changed hands.
- Russian forces continued to fortify fallback positions in northwestern Kherson Oblast, likely in anticipation of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the region.
- Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin continued to discuss and sign patronage agreements with Russian regional officials.
🌍 MIDDLE EAST
After more than a week of indecision, the Biden administration has confirmed that the president will travel to Saudi Arabia next month to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s ruler. When I spoke with bin Salman—known universally as MBS—in December, he all but dared President Joe Biden not to meet with him. He told me that Biden’s job is to look out for American interests, and that if Biden thought that meant pissing off Saudi Arabia, then he should give that theory a try and see what happens. “Go for it,” MBS said to me in English, which he speaks well but not perfectly. I believe the idiom he was searching for was “make my day.”
As a candidate, Biden called MBS a “pariah.” The Mario Cuomo line about campaigning in poetry and governing in prose applies here: Biden undoubtedly continues to dislike MBS. But the United States does not exist in some ethereal realm of gumdrops and friendship bracelets, and eventually the two men will have to meet, because Saudi Arabia—troublesome though it is—remains a very useful country to have on your side. Its usefulness is opaque to those who see foreign policy solely in moral terms but clear to anyone with a healthy level of cynicism. (Paywalled.)
🇸🇦🪚 Biden is right about Saudi Arabia: “The president is sacrificing his values in the interests of something we haven’t seen much of in the past two decades: realism.”
Thousands of teachers rallied across Iran on Thursday to demand a decent life and call for the release of their colleagues, who are languishing in state-run prisons. … Only hours into the rallies, Iranian intelligence agents had detained up to 100 leading activists nationwide, including 60 in the southern city of Shiraz alone, in what appeared to be a preemptive measure to minimize the size of the demonstrations.
Israeli and American intelligence officials have been watching each day as Iran digs a vast tunnel network just south of the Natanz nuclear production site, in what they believe is Tehran’s biggest effort yet to construct new nuclear facilities so deep in the mountains that they can withstand bunker-busting bombs and cyberattacks.
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iranian petrochemical producers as well as Chinese and Indian brokers, expanding pressure amid a deadlock in negotiations on restoring a nuclear deal. …
The Treasury Department said it was imposing sanctions on a network of Iranian petrochemical firms including alleged front companies in China and the United Arab Emirates for Iran’s state-owned company and Triliance, a Hong Kong-based company already under US sanctions for its dealing with Iran. It also took action against China-based broker Jeff Gao and Indian national Mohammad Shaheed Ruknooddin Bhore for allegedly managing business for Triliance.
The visit, announced by Erdoğan on Friday and scheduled for June 22, will be MBS’s first visit to Turkey since the brutal 2018 killing of Saudi insider-turned-critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, which shocked the world and dealt a heavy blow to ties between the regional rivals. “The crown prince will visit Wednesday, we will welcome him,” Erdoğan told reporters. “God willing we will have the opportunity to assess to what much higher level we can take Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations,” Erdoğan said.
Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians and wounded at least eight others early Friday during a military operation in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The military said its forces came under attack and exchanged fire with militants.
A nationwide public sector strike in Tunisia is poised to paralyze land and air transportation and other vital activities Thursday with the North African nation already in the midst of a deteriorating economic crisis.
US coalition forces said they captured a senior Islamic State group bomb maker in a pre-dawn raid Thursday that, witnesses said, saw troops in helicopters swoop down on an isolated house in rebel-held northwestern Syria. … “The captured individual is an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator who became one of the top leaders of Daesh’s Syrian branch,” said the US-led coalition.
🇴🇲🛢🔀 Oman’s Sultan replaces oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle The sultan replaced long-serving oil minister Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhi with Salem al-Aufi.
🇱🇾🛢🚱Libya oil output strangled by infighting in world starved of energy. The Libyan Ministry of Oil and Gas said output has fallen more than 85 percent, with production now at 100,000 to 150,000 barrels a day:
The blockade of oil facilities is driven by a political rivalry between two main factions in the country over control of Libya’s government. Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, who took office in a UN-backed process, refused to hand over power to Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister in March by the eastern-based parliament, which is in turn backed by the self-styled Libyan National Army.
🇸🇾🤳🏽 Authorities in opposition-held northwest Syria are cracking down on posters of TikTok videos, with detentions and dismissals from public sector jobs.
A Turkish court imprisoned pending trial 16 Kurdish journalists and media workers who were arrested after being detained last week accused of spreading terrorist propaganda. … Police in mainly-Kurdish Diyarbakır detained the 21 journalists on a charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organization over the preparation of television shows broadcast from Belgium and Britain
Israel secretly coordinates with the US on many of the airstrikes it carries out in Syria as the allies face a battlefield crowded with militant groups, Iranian-backed militias and foreign militaries, according to current and former US officials. (Paywalled.)
🇨🇬🌳🛖 Congo peat: The “lungs of humanity” under threat: A giant slab of carbon-rich peat, discovered in central Africa, is under threat from uncontrolled development.
🇫🇷🇧🇫⚡️🥷🏻🏍 The French military says it killed nearly 40 jihadis in drone strikes on a motorcycle column in Niger, near the border with Burkina Faso.
🇷🇼🇨🇩💀 Rwanda’s military says a Congolese soldier crossed the border and began shooting at Rwandan security forces and civilians before being shot dead, the latest escalation in tensions between the countries.
🇷🇼🇨🇩💀 A DR Congo soldier was killed at a frontier post in the eastern Congolese city of Goma in an exchange of fire with Rwanda, police said, while Rwanda said two of its soldiers were wounded.
If Rwanda wants war with neighboring Congo, “it will have war,” a top Congolese military official said Wednesday to thousands in eastern Congo protesting the recent capture of a nearby town by rebels. Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu province, made the inflammatory comments to protesters in the city of Goma before asking them to demonstrate peacefully.
“Rwanda does not like us. We are not afraid of it and we will fight it,” Ekenge said. “If it wants war, it will have war,” he said, adding: “No one will occupy a single centimeter of our territory.” The escalating tensions come after the M23 rebel movement seized Bunagana, a key town in eastern Congo, on Monday.
A protester was shot dead as anti-military protests flared in parts of Khartoum and nearby Omdurman on Thursday, a week after military leaders and the former ruling civilian coalition met to break a political deadlock gripping Sudan since last year’s coup.
Nigeria’s main opposition presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar on Thursday picked a governor from the oil producing Delta state as running mate for next year’s presidential election. The choice points to a strategy by Abubakar, a northern Muslim, to generate support in the largely Christian south …
“I know that he will not only add excitement to our already energised campaign, but will also help bring focus, discipline and stability to our government come 2023,” Abubakar said while presenting Okowa at the PDP offices in the capital Abuja.
“I ask the parliament to approve him as soon as possible. I ask the prime minister to fulfill the work before him like tackling insecurity, drought, climate change and good relations with all countries,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud saidSomalia’s president nominated Hamza Abdi Barre, a former chairman of the Jubbaland state election commission, as prime minister. ….
“I thank God for making Somalia hold a fair election after a period of such uncertainty,” said Barre, a lawmaker elected in December last year for the city of Kismayo, where he co-founded a university.
Tanzania on Thursday began relocating Maasai pastoralists from the famed Ngorongoro conservation area in a move that rights campaigners described as unlawful evictions. The indigenous community has lived in the reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Tanzania, for over a century. But they now face being moved out, as the authorities contend that their growing population is a threat to wildlife habitat.
Ugandan opposition leader and former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye has been jailed and charged with inciting violence for the second time in a month, his lawyer announced Thursday.
A longtime critic of President Yoweri Museveni, Kizza Besigye, 66, has recently led several protests against the rising cost of living in Uganda, as well as the entire African continent, as a result of the war in Ukraine.
🇿🇦💸🛏 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing calls to step down over claims that he tried to cover up the theft of millions of dollars in US currency hidden inside furniture at his game farm.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)announced they have introduced the bipartisan Taiwan Policy Act of 2022. The new legislation, which comes in the wake of last week’s threats by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe’s that China will “not hesitate to start a war” and “smash to smithereens” Taiwan, represents the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy towards Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. The bipartisan proposal expands US efforts to promote the security of Taiwan, ensures regional stability, and deters further People’s Republic of China aggression against Taiwan. The legislation also imposes steep costs on the PRC for hostile action against Taiwan by setting up a broad economic sanctions regime.
Specifically, the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 creates a new initiative to bolster Taiwan’s defense capabilities, providing almost US$4.5 billion in security assistance over the next four years. The bill also bolsters support for Taiwan’s democratic government; provides additional support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and in multilateral trade architecture; takes concrete steps to counter PRC’s aggressive coercion and influence campaigns; creates a Taiwan Fellowship Program; and designates Taiwan as a Major Non-NATO Ally.
Chinese policymakers are increasingly convinced that the United States is determined to implement a full-fledged strategy of containment against China. Beijing views the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity as the economic mirror of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and AUKUS, two US-led security pacts that Beijing regards as anti-China coalitions. Chinese officials, academics, and media rhetoric increasingly talk of self-reliance and are preparing for a forced upling from the United States. Fang Xinghai, a vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, proposed accelerating the yuan’s internationalization to prepare for the risk of forced financial decoupling. A Shanghai-based academic argued that “the peace dividend is over”—hence, “it is time that China prepare for a full decoupling.” Even the more moderate voices have acknowledged the profound changes in US-China relations behind the “decoupling theory” and called for China to “prepare for the worst but strive for the best.”
Astronomers at Beijing Normal University have discovered “several cases of possible technological traces and extraterrestrial civilizations from outside the Earth,” according to a report published Tuesday (June 14) in Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
The signals were picked up by China’s five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, nicknamed “Sky Eye,” which is the largest radio telescope in the world. Sky Eye was put to work scanning deep space for radio signals that could indicate extraterrestrial life in 2019; sifting through that data in 2020, the researchers said they spotted two suspicious narrow-band, potentially artificial radio signals. Then, in 2022, a targeted survey of known exoplanets found another strange narrow-band radio signal, bringing the tally up to three. … Following its publication, the report quickly began to circulate on the Chinese social media network Weibo and was picked up by a number of other state-run outlets. The reasons behind its sudden deletion are unclear.
Beijing launched a new-generation aircraft carrier Friday, the first such ship to be both designed and built in China, in a milestone as it seeks to extend the range and power of its navy. The Type 003 carrier christened Fujian left its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier, state media reports said.
State broadcaster CCTV showed assembled navy personnel standing beneath the massive ship as water jets sprayed over its deck, multi-colored streamers flew and colorful smoke was released. Equipped with the latest weaponry and aircraft-launch technology, the Type 003 ship’s capabilities are thought to rival those of Western carriers, as Beijing seeks to turn its navy, already the world’s largest, into a multi-carrier force.
One of China’s largest and most capable combat ships is conducting long-distance exercises in the Sea of Japan, state media reported on Thursday, in a display of China’s increasing naval reach.
New textbooks sent to Hong Kong secondary schools teach that the city was not a British colony, but an occupied territory—a recasting of history that is part of Beijing’s ideological clampdown in the city. The textbooks seek to head off calls for self-determination in the city following a wave of anti-government protests in 2019, in which some participants called for independence.
“Even [though] Britain occupied Hong Kong . . . the Chinese Government did not recognise such unequal treaties and insisted [on] her sovereignty over Hong Kong,” reads one “exemplar answer” in a textbook released by Modern Educational Research Society, a Hong Kong publisher.
A bill to introduce prison terms as part of tougher penalties for online insults was passed Monday at an upper house plenary session, marking a major step toward tackling cyberbullying in Japan. Moves to amend the country’s Penal Code gained traction after Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler and cast member on the popular Netflix reality show “Terrace House,” was believed to have committed suicide in May 2020 after receiving a barrage of hateful messages on social media.
Japan’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that the government is not liable for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, dismissing thousands of evacuees’ demands that the state, not just the utility, pay compensation for damage to their lives. The ruling was the first by the top court on government responsibility for the Fukushima disaster in four compensation lawsuits filed by about 3,700 Fukushima residents.
Building on the country’s woes, the official KCNA this week announced a new “acute enteric epidemic” in South Hwanghae province, with Kim urging officials to “contain the epidemic at the earliest date possible.” In a possible sign of the seriousness of the situation, Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, was one of a group of senior officials who reportedly personally donated medicine to try and help. (I hope the right people are paying attention to this story. Whatever this is, I don’t want it—Claire.)
Overturning its predecessor’s assessment, South Korea’s new conservative government said Thursday there is no evidence that a South Korean official slain by North Korea near the rivals’ disputed sea boundary in 2020 had intended to defect to the North.
The killing of the fisheries official has been a major source of domestic divide in South Korea, with conservatives accusing then-President Moon Jae-in’s liberal government of failing to strongly respond to North Korea in the hopes of better ties. About a week after his killing, South Korean officials announced the man had gambling debts and swam to resettle in the North.
🇰🇵 Ending North Korea’s isolation is the only solution left. It’s time to consider what’s never been tried before:
In the time that I have been following events in East Asia, starting with more than a decade of coverage from bases in Japan and China beginning in the late 1990s, it has sometimes seemed like I have seen every permutation of possible diplomatic responses to the challenges that North Korea poses to the international system, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and the systems that deliver them. …
Philippine president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr has appointed former military chief Jose Faustino as the Southeast Asian country’s next defense minister in his cabinet … When he takes up the post later this month, Faustino will have to balance the Philippines’ relations with Washington, a treaty ally, and Beijing, which continues its assertive stance in claiming almost all of the South China Sea. He will also have to contend with a decades-long insurgency by Maoist rebels and the ongoing threat from violent Muslim extremism in the volatile southern Philippines.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party is well placed to extend its rule in next year’s national elections after trouncing the competition at last week’s local commune elections. The victory would also enable Hun Sen to hand power to his eldest son.
As expected, the CPP took advantage of a ban on the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, whose supporters struggled to reorganize before the vote with hundreds of its members.
It is the latest stop in a South Pacific travel blitz by Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who is seeking to shore up regional ties against China’s growing sway. … Wong is to meet with her Solomons’ counterpart and pay a visit to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who has fumed over foreign criticism of the China deal. “We are being treated as kindergarten students walking around with Colt 45s in our hands, and therefore we need to be supervised,” he told parliament in early May of the foreign pressure, including from Australia’s former conservative government. “We are insulted.”
The sprawling seagrass, a marine flowering plant known as Posidonia australis, stretches for more than 112 miles in Australia’s Shark Bay. “We often get asked how many different plants are growing in a seagrass meadow. Here we used genetic tools to answer it. The answer definitely surprised us—just ONE! That’s it, just one plant has expanded over 180 km in Shark Bay, making it the largest known plant on Earth.”
A massive to-do. Modi’s government announced plans to overhaul recruitment India’s armed forces, hoping to lower the average age of personnel and thus reduce retirement expenses. But recruits, veterans, opposition leaders and even members of the BJP went berserk. Positively hysterical. No other word for it, look for yourself.
Violence raged today across seven states against the new recruitment scheme for the army, despite an important change announced by the government on the age limit for those eligible for a four-year tenure.
The “Agnipath” scheme was announced by the centre on Tuesday; it led nearly instantly to demonstrations across the country which have included at least 30 trains being attacked in Bihar and the storming of the BJP’s offices in states like Bihar.
- EXPLAINED: The Agnipath scheme for armed forces …
- Chhattisgarh CM slams Agnipath scheme …
- Anti-Agnipath protests turn violent …
- Agnipath protests: Houses of Bihar Deputy CM, state BJP chief attacked; section 144 imposed in Gurgaon …
- Train set ablaze, stones pelted as tensions over Agnipath scheme reaches Secunderabad …
- Anti-Agnipath protests: one dead, 13 injured in Secunderabad …
- Over 200 trains cancelled as protests spread to multiple states …
- As violent protests over the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme rock Bihar, the second BJP office has been set on fire in Madhepura.
- Agnipath protest: trail of fiery slogans, blockades and arson blaze through seven states …
- 12 trains set on fire, roads blocked by Agnipath protesters …
- Haryana suspends mobile internet, SMS services for next 24 hours in Mahendragarh …
(They’re saying that they’re not happy and will destroy the surroundings if the scheme isn’t revoked.)
This is what he deserves for trying to make India a banana republic.#AgnipathScheme#Agnipath
#ModiMustResign #ModiShamesIndia #AshokGehlot #Godse
Train#VaccinateOurKids #Secunderabad pic.twitter.com/A3FwyDrewZ
— Ahmed_K C (@AhmedKCSpeaks) June 17, 2022
Those who did this don’t deserve to be in any Government or private service. Burning public property is unacceptable. Crime against country. Whether #Agnipath is a game changer or not, arsonists can never be #Agniveers.
Opposition has to be democratic.Anarchy clearly unacceptable pic.twitter.com/nriCUC3DYM
— GAURAV C SAWANT (@gauravcsawant) June 16, 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia will hold a presidential election on Sunday unlike any other in its history. Learn about it here.
Rodolfo Hernandez bills himself as a paragon of democracy and a successful businessman who cares for the poor. A trip to Bucaramanga, the mountain-fringed city where he built his empire, reveals a different picture.
The foreboding that still haunts the streets of the country’s north is spreading too fast and too far across Colombia to ignore. The candidates and urban voters ignore these challenges at their peril. The huge stakes of the elections extend to the future of a conflict that was supposed to be over but is instead reigniting. Having ended war here once, Colombia should not allow it to erupt again.
Indigenous Ecuadorans used burning tires, tree trunks and stones Thursday to block access to the capital, Quito, on the fourth day of protests against high fuel prices and living costs.
Indigenous people, who make up over a million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million inhabitants, embarked on an open-ended anti-government protest Monday that has since been joined by students and other discontented groups.
Central players in the Panama Papers case were among 39 people acquitted on money-laundering charges on Friday. Panamanian judge Baloísa Marquínez Morán found that prosecutors in the trial failed to prove that Mossack Fonseca, a now-defunct law firm, had hidden illicit cash from a Brazilian construction company. Lawyers Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca were charged with setting up offshore accounts for the business to move bribes. In the 2016 Panama Papers leaks, some 11 million financial records from some of the world’s richest and most powerful people were exposed, showing widespread use of offshore accounts to hide money from tax authorities. World leaders, including Vladimir Putin, were implicated in the leaks, and the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson resigned after his financial affairs were exposed.
A fisherman confessed to killing a British journalist and a Brazilian expert on Indigenous peoples deep in the Amazon and then showed authorities where he had hid their bodies, the Brazilian federal police said Wednesday. It was a grim breakthrough in the 10-day search for the missing men that has transfixed Brazil and provoked international outrage.
Cuba, once legendary for its sugar cane, produced only about half the sugar it had hoped to this season, and authorities acknowledged that while they will cover internal demand they will not be able to meet their international commitments.
🇦🇷📈 Four scenarios for Argentina’s inflation crisis. History suggests that inflation’s path will determine the outcome of the 2023 elections:
It would be an understatement to say that Argentina has a pathological relationship with inflation. Going back to the mid-20th century, hardly any country in the Western Hemisphere has a worse track record. After hyperinflation in 1989, a currency peg during the 1990s held back price increases until they spiked again in 2002—and ever since, inflation has been the country’s main macroeconomic issue. But inflation has not always represented a political problem. …
What the committee established conclusively in its third public hearing, so neatly encapsulated by Eastman’s request for a pardon, was that Eastman knew that under the plan he devised, Trump was urging Pence to violate the law. And not just Eastman—everyone knew. The lawyers, aides, and assorted hangers-on who surrounded Trump in the crucial, ultimately tragic weeks between November 3 and January 6 all understood that what the defeated president was attempting was not merely contesting an election, but plotting to overturn its result.
Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, testified that even as Eastman lobbied the vice president on Trump’s behalf, he repeatedly acknowledged during private conversations that his scheme for Pence to declare Trump the winner would violate the Electoral Count Act of 1887. In videotaped depositions, Pence aides said the same was true of Giuliani and Mark Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff. Another White House attorney, Eric Herschmann, told the committee that when he pointed out to Eastman that such a move by Pence would spark widespread rioting in the streets, Eastman replied with “words to the effect of ‘There’s been violence in the history of our country in order to protect the democracy, or to protect the republic.’” (Paywalled.)
🇺🇸🎙 Among those seeking to defend the indefensible, the memo seems to have come down from on high that these hearings are to be condemned as a “show trial.”
The hearing, however, possessed all the signature hallmarks of the infamous Moscow Trials nearly 100 years ago, in which opponents to Joseph Stalin’s regime were hauled before the public and charged with treason and sedition.
(Claire—Apart from the obvious—they’re hearings, not a trial—this comparison is grotesque. “All the signature hallmarks?” Such as false confessions extracted under torture, followed by the murder of the accused?)
🇺🇸🇫🇷👁 The US through French eyes: The postman just dropped off my copy of Le Point, a mainstream, center-right-ish French news magazine. I opened it eagerly, expecting an invigorating attack on Mélenchon and NUPES, but saw this, to my dismay:
Trump’s return, militias, woke deliriums, decline of the moderates, the specter of secession … AMERICA ON THE VERGE OF IMPLOSION.
The risk of contagion: Could it happen in France?
The Antikythera mechanism, an astronomical calculator found in a first-century BCE shipwreck, has proven to be mechanically more sophisticated than anything known from the subsequent millennium. While many are amazed at such a discovery, a more appropriate response would be admiration, for the mechanism fits well into its historic context. Indeed, the ancient scholar Cicero offered contemporary accounts of similar devices, which he saw as embodying the peak of human ingenuity. But the significance of the Antikythera mechanism extends beyond the elegance and complexity of its design. It may also represent a major development in our understanding of the universe.
After all-night talks, members of the World Trade Organization early Friday reached a string of deals and commitments aimed at limiting overfishing, broadening production of Covid19 vaccines in the developing world, improving food security and reforming a 27-year-old trade body that has been back on its heels in recent years.
💉 We’re getting closer to making self-spreading vaccines. What are the risks?
Self-spreading vaccines could provide a cost-effective way to vaccinate animal populations and reduce the incidence of pathogens capable of infecting humans, in contrast to resource intensive wildlife vaccination drives. Cost-effective animal vaccination could also be used for wildlife conservation and, according to proponents, may even allow the preemptive elimination of pathogens capable of causing pandemics—even if the feasibility of the latter is highly uncertain.
On the other hand, critics have highlighted that the release of a self-spreading virus may have unanticipated and potentially harmful consequences. …
💨🏃🏾♂️🚶🏾♂️🚶🏾♀️100 million: Forcible displacement sets new record.
- At the end of 2021, according to the UNHCR, 89.3 million people had been displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses was—up eight percent from the previous year and well over double the figure ten years before.
- The invasion of Ukraine and emergencies from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond have now pushed the figure over 100 million.
- Last year was notable for the number of new and escalating conflicts: 23 countries, with a combined population of 850 million, faced medium- or high-intensity conflicts, according to the World Bank.
- The number of refugees rose in 2021 to 27.1 million. Arrivals climbed in Uganda, Chad and Sudan, among others. Most refugees were, once again, hosted by neighboring countries with few resources.
- The number of asylum seekers is up 11 per cent from the year before.
- Last year saw the 15th straight annual rise in people displaced within their countries by conflict, to 53.2 million, driven particularly by conflict in Myanmar, Ethiopia, and the Sahel—especially in Burkina Faso and Chad.
- Children account for 30 percent of the world’s population, but 41 percent of the forcibly displaced.
✍🏼📜 BY THE COSMOPOLITAN GLOBALISTS
It’s been quite a good day for Ukraine:
– Russian tugboat Vasiliy Bekh destroyed with a Harpoon missile
– European Commission recommended the EU candidate status for 🇺🇦
– visas for Russians introduced
– Boris Johnson visited Kyiv
– paramedic Taira freed from Russian captivity
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) June 17, 2022
“Tous les Ukrainiens que j’ai vus, ils se projettent dans l’avenir, ils veulent construire, plein d’espoir ! Et quel contraste avec la Russie de Poutine qui est inscrite sous le signe de la destruction.” @NTenzer
— C ce soir (@Ccesoir) June 15, 2022
We must save the Ukrainians at all costs: An immediate strategic imperative, by Nicolas Tenzer:
According to a realistic estimate, 100,000 people have already been murdered by Putin’s forces in Ukraine, probably about 90,000 civilians and 10,000 soldiers. In Mariupol alone, 50,000 of them have died, either killed by Russian shells or due to lack of water, food and care. Almost every day we receive reports of new massacres and new mass graves are discovered from which tortured bodies are exhumed. Let us reflect on what this means for them—and for us.
🦇 THE DAILY BAT
Sadly, I’m no longer able to read Tsargrad here in Paris. I suspect it’s been censored. A pity. It was so good for a laugh.
The UK sanctioned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, for his support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He “blessed” Russia’s conflicts abroad and has labeled Russia’s opponents in Ukraine “evil forces.”
The sanctions did not go over well in Moscow. Watch: pic.twitter.com/58nftPVZnE
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) June 17, 2022
🥢 THE DAILY SCOLDING
By stressing the need to foster an enabling environment for development, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out the importance to follow true multilateralism, build an open world economy and reject attempts at decoupling, supply disruption, unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure in a speech at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum via video link on Friday. …
Analysts said Xi’s remarks show strong support for fair and multilateral approach and economic connectivity, when this year’s forum is the first since Russia was put under numerous Western sanctions since the Ukraine crisis.
🕊☁️ TODAY’S SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE
TODAY’S ANIMAL: THIS SILVERBACK GORILLA
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.