Friday. 4/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news / Ukraine

Latest headlines

• Russian forces have seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after a fire broke out overnight. The blaze at Europe’s largest nuclear facility started after shelling by Russian tanks. The fire was extinguished and the plant’s six reactors are said to be secure.

• The shelling and capture of Zaporizhzhia has been widely condemned by Western powers. Volodymyr Zelensky has been speaking with several world leaders including Boris Johnson, who condemned the “reckless actions of president Putin”.

• A second round of peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv saw both sides commit to creating “humanitarian corridors” for civilians to flee the fighting. The delegations also agreed on the delivery of food and medicine to areas of fighting but failed to reach a ceasefire.

• The US has issued further sanctions on several Russian oligarchs and government officials, including Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. But Joe Biden has rejected bipartisan calls for a ban on Russian oil imports, for fear of pushing up fuel prices for American consumers.

• Ukraine faces a “devastating humanitarian crisis” as civilian casualties rise, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned; 47 people were killed in Russian air strikes on residential areas in the city of Chernihiv yesterday, according to regional authorities.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Broken homes

“My hometown no longer exists,” says Illia Ponomarenko as he manages to find a quiet moment to speak amid the noise of Vladimir Putin’s war. Ponomarenko is a defence reporter with the Kyiv Independent and hails from Volnovakha, a small city in the Donbas area that, eight years ago, found itself on the Ukrainian side of a divided region. Now it finds itself on the frontline once more. Meanwhile, Katerina Sergatskova, a journalist originally from Simferopol in Crimea, dreams of the day when her city can become part of Ukraine once more.

As Russian bombardments continue to target Ukraine’s urban centres, forcing citizens to flee to seek shelter underground, we’ve been asking people from all over the country to tell us about the place that they call home for a special episode of The Urbanist. “The beautiful buildings in Kyiv are the product of the human spirit,” says Alya Shandra, editor in chief of Euromaidan Press. “If that is strong, they will be rebuilt.” Engineer Vitaly Rozman told me about his beloved Odessa (“mother”, as he calls it) and growing up by the beach with the hum of the port as a backdrop. Sociologist Oksana Lemishka talked about the community spirit in cosy Ternopil in western Ukraine and of looking forward to the day when she can go back to eat chocolate ice cream by the lake with her friends as the sun sets. Editor Kate Tsurkan explained why she chose to live in Chernivtsi, the home city of renowned poet Paul Celan.

Some moments stop you in your tracks, such as when Ponomarenko describes getting his mother out of Volnovakha just hours before the first bomb dropped. Or Rozman on seeing Odessa’s opera house surrounded by barricades, as in photographs from 1945. But it is Shandra who left me with the most sobering thought: “Maybe this bombing of the cities will really be a symbolic break with the past and we can build our story anew, without the reminders of the Soviet Union all around us.”

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Latvia

Support system

Nato’s current balancing act has left some Ukrainians frustrated. Most of the alliance’s 30 member states are offering support to Ukraine’s army but have refused to risk a direct military confrontation with Russia. Latvia’s defence minister Artis Pabriks admits that the line is an uncomfortable one: while Nato will not consider enforcing a no-fly zone, as Ukraine has called for, Pabriks says that the alliance should do everything short of direct intervention. “We have to give maximum assistance to the Ukrainian military: lethal weapons, ammunition, fuel – everything we can do,” he tells Monocle. And what if Russia considers even military support as amounting to an intervention? “That depends solely on Russia, not on us,” he says. “They are masters of finding arguments for why they can kill people. As long as we are not involved ourselves but only support Ukraine with all the equipment they need, the Russians do not have a right to turn against us.”

Hear more from Pabriks on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ and on a ‘Foreign Desk’ special tomorrow on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Human rights / Russia

Trial by ordeal

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin an investigation into alleged war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine after 39 countries referred the matter to the ICC, thus bypassing approval from The Hague. The investigation will not just look at potential crimes committed during the current invasion but also as far back as 21 November 2013. That was the date Ukraine’s former president, Victor Yanukovych, rejected an association agreement with the EU, sparking the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that were followed by the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

While the investigation sends a strong signal, the ICC’s abilities are limited. “The court has some track record of dealing with a few fairly junior rebel leaders but never anybody in a significant position of power,” Phil Clark, professor of international politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “It's not a court that at the moment is fit for purpose for dealing with anybody of the seniority of Putin.”

Image: Getty Images

Elections / South Korea

Taking the lead

South Korea is less than a week away from electing a new president and the race is close between conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and Lee Jae-myung (pictured, on right, with Yoon), the ruling Democratic Party’s nominee. Lee, who is just behind Yoon in polls, received a barrage of criticism last week when he claimed during a presidential debate that Ukraine “provoked” Russia into invading; he later issued an apology for the remarks but his rival has called him an “international disgrace”. South Korea, a close US ally, has generally followed the West’s line, banning exports of strategic technology to Russia and sanctioning Russian banks. Beyond debate-night gaffes, whoever wins the election next week will have to steer Seoul’s policy on Ukraine and Russia, and assess how it might affect South Korea’s relationship with North Korea, which was one of just four countries to vote with Russia this week against a UN resolution demanding immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Italy

Changing its tune

Celebrated Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been making headlines in Italy for his pro-Putin history; the Corriere della Sera posted a picture of him alongside his “friend-president” and scrutinised his property assets in Italy, which are worth €150m. Milan’s mayor, Beppe Sala, pushed the conductor to distance himself from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – without success. And it has cost Gergiev work at the Munich Philharmonic, New York’s Carnegie Hall and now Milan’s La Scala, which has replaced him for a concert tomorrow. Filling his shoes will be 27-year-old Timur Zangiev, from the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alania, who had already been preparing the orchestra for the performance. Russian soprano Anna Netrebko (pictured, on right, with Putin and Gergiev), who has denounced the war, says that it’s not the right time to perform and won’t appear. Replacing Gergiev with a compatriot shouldn’t be a controversial move, however. Zangiev hasn’t publicly discussed the war and sanctions shouldn’t necessarily target all Russians but rather Putin’s higher-profile supporters.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Backdrop

Caleb and Natalie Ebel believe that they can use the power of paint to reshape your home, with a transformational approach to the business of selecting, buying and using the product. This husband-and-wife team explain how and why they started on the journey to make buying paint a better informed and more intentional design decision. They discuss why they are driven by a desire to strip away consumer confusion and to turn the purchase of paint into a pleasure.

Monocle Films / Global

Media on the move

We visit two bold companies finding canny ways to pivot their product for changing audiences. Transhelvetica, a Swiss magazine, and Spiritland, a London-based hospitality and audio venture, are each shaping the media landscape for the better.

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