Monday. 7/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news / Ukraine

Latest headlines

• Russia has proposed a ceasefire for Ukrainian citizens to evacuate along routes leading directly to Russia or its ally Belarus; the smaller cities of Mariupol and Sumy were offered paths to elsewhere in Ukraine. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s president branded the proposal “immoral” and said Russia was trying to “use people’s suffering to create a television picture”.

• Russian forces have intensified their attacks on several Ukrainian cities, targeting populated areas in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv, the UK defence ministry has said. It comes amid heavy fighting around Kyiv and fears of a major offensive on the capital.

• Washington has given the green light to Nato allies providing fighter jets to Ukraine. Poland could be supplied with US warplanes, according to US secretary of state Antony Blinken, in return for sending its own Soviet-era jets to Ukraine’s air force.

• Global stock markets sunk further while oil prices soared to their highest for nearly 14 years, amid the fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions. The price of a barrel of oil hit $139 as US lawmakers discussed a ban on Russian energy imports.

• Russian president Vladimir Putin was reported to be in a sound state of mind over the weekend during lengthy talks in Moscow with Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett. Israeli news reports say that Bennett, the first Western leader to meet Putin in person since the war began, saw no evidence of irrational behaviour or bouts of rage.

To stay up to date on the latest developments in Ukraine and beyond, listen to our coverage across Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Sergey Parkhomenko

Sound of the silenced

Russia is now a fully fledged totalitarian state. Today, any website can be blocked at any moment; Russia has even been demanding that media outlets take down material that has been published in the past. It’s Orwellian. Media outlets receive entire lists of words and materials to remove because the government deems them to be extremist, fascist or inciting terrorism. What’s more, any individual who has a social-media presence can be accused of being a “foreign agent” and lose their civil rights.

All this was already the case before the war began. But now the government has also approved a law that any “false” reporting of military action can attract a prison sentence of 15 years. Independent radio station Echo of Moscow, TV channel Rain and other independent media outlets have been blocked for Russian people, though some are still available abroad. For the moment, YouTube is operating in Russia so Echo of Moscow, for which I produce a programme, still has this as an outlet. Those who can use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to circumvent the blocks but it’s a constant battle between the government and VPN providers. We don’t know what the future holds; if YouTube is blocked, then Echo of Moscow will lose its last mouthpiece in Russia.

Every dictator is assisted by a lack of a free press, by the fact that its citizens don’t know what is happening around them – to the economy, or abroad, or how many lives have been lost, or why this war in Ukraine is taking place – because state media tells them that it’s about “de-Nazifying” a country. If the Russian government changes, possibly the free press will be back. If technology evolves to allow people to bypass Russian internet providers, then for a little while at least some form of freedom will return. I will continue to put out my programme, Sut’ Sobitiy, and hope that people will be able to access it somehow. We are returning to what it was like in the Soviet era: to samizdat, an illegal way to deliver news from outside the country to Russian citizens. That is our future for now.

Parkhomenko founded Russia’s first current-affairs weekly, ‘Itogi’, and was editor in chief of ‘Vokrug Sveta’, Russia’s oldest monthly magazine. Since 2003, Parkhomenko has been presenting a weekly news-analysis programme on Echo of Moscow.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / USA

American horror

It’s difficult to overstate the power of Volodymyr Zelensky’s impassioned plea to more than 200 US lawmakers on Saturday. “Don’t let them eliminate us,” he said in the video call (pictured) that sent a jolt through Capitol Hill. There’s a shift in thinking among Republicans and Democrats that is, in many cases, beyond what even Joe Biden believes the US has left in its arsenal to punish Russia. For instance, given the groundswell of bipartisan sympathy for Ukraine, the US will surely cut off its modest imports of Russian oil eventually, something the White House has so far resisted. Then there’s the question of sending American F16 fighter jets to Poland, thereby allowing the Poles to supply their own Soviet-era aircraft to the Ukrainian effort. The Biden administration continues to sound remarkably cautious about any deeper involvement but, with a no-fly zone out of the question, it should heed Zelensky’s call: “If you can’t do that, at least get me planes.”

Image: Shutterstock

​​Conflict / Ukraine

Unreasonable demands

With the war in Ukraine expected to enter another new and deadlier phase, diplomatic talks to broker a cessation of hostilities over the weekend were numerous – but none of them particularly fruitful. Ukrainian and Russian authorities twice negotiated an apparent ceasefire allowing citizens to leave the southern port city of Mariupol (pictured); twice citizens were left running for their lives as shelling resumed.

Meanwhile Vladimir Putin took calls from France’s Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and had a visit from Israel’s Naftali Bennett. The latter two in particular have offered to mediate but a statement about the Erdoğan call from the Kremlin makes clear that Russia is only prepared to negotiate if its “well-known” core demands are met, namely the “demilitarisation” of Ukraine – or a complete surrender of Ukraine’s army – and the “de-Nazification” of its regime, which presumably means the departure of Ukraine’s leadership, including president Volodymyr Zelensky. Neither demand could realistically be accepted by any democratic sovereign nation.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Canada

How to help

Justin Trudeau (pictured) has begun a week-long visit to Europe to discuss ongoing efforts by Western governments to penalise the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine. The first stop is London for meetings with Boris Johnson and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. Trudeau, accompanied by Canada’s defence minister Anita Anand, will then visit Latvia for talks with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, before travelling to Germany and Poland. Canada has taken a prominent role in many of the co-ordinated Western sanctions against Russia so far and has supplied aid, weapons and money to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities during the conflict. Its government has also waived most visa requirements to allow an “unlimited number” of Ukrainians to settle in Canada temporarily. The country’s Ukrainian community – the largest outside of Russia or Ukraine – has also taken it upon itself to raise and provide significant support. Trudeau’s visit to Europe will aim to keep up that momentum.

Image: Reuters

Fashion / France

Standing together

The most attended event at Paris Fashion Week this weekend wasn’t a runway show but an anti-war rally in Place de la Bastille. Stylists, designers and editors were invited by Lilia Litkovskaya (pictured), the sole Ukrainian designer who made it to Paris, to join the demonstration. “It was my mission to come here and get the attention of the fashion community,” Litkovskaya, who fled to Poland when the invasion started, tells the Monocle Minute. Earlier she mounted an installation at the Tranoï trade fair, where her new collection would have been presented to buyers, displaying images from the war and QR codes linking to the work of Ukrainian artists. “We had everything ready for our presentation. The brand has been in the Paris schedule since 2017; I planned to use Ukrainians living in Paris as models. But that doesn’t matter anymore,” she says. “I’m here to stand with all the Ukrainian creators who should have been able to come to Paris.”

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk Live

Russia invades Ukraine – week two:

Andrew Mueller gets the latest from Ukraine. Plus: is this an opportunity for Putin’s political opponents? What’s the view from the Baltics? And how do you run an effective government in wartime? With Yulia Marushovska, Leonid Volkov, Artis Pabriks, Alona Shkrum and Alex Riabchyn.

Monocle Films / Lithuania

Kaunas: Lithuania’s modernist city

As Lithuania’s second city, it’s not often Kaunas gets much international attention. This, however, could be about to change. Kaunas has been named one of Europe's Capitals of Culture for 2022; a title it’s taking seriously. Monocle visited the city to take a tour of its modernist marvels. Read more on the story in our December/January issue.

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