Tuesday 8 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 8/3/2022

The Monocle Minute


Latest headlines

• Ukraine’s military claims to have downed two more Russian war planes above Kyiv, while intelligence officials say that a Russian army general has been killed in fighting near Kharkiv. An intercepted conversation discussing the high-ranking death also suggests that Russia is experiencing problems with its hi-tech system for secure communications.

• Vladimir Putin has said that there are no Russian conscripts or reservists fighting in Ukraine. Putin made the claim in a video address to the “mothers, wives, sisters, brides and girlfriends” of Russian soldiers and officers, which was posted on the Kremlin website today to coincide with International Women’s Day.

• Round three of peace talks ended yesterday with an agreement to try to open humanitarian corridors again but no truce. Russia and Ukraine’s foreign ministers have agreed separately to meet in southern Turkey on Thursday with their Turkish counterpart set to mediate.

• Volodymyr Zelensky said that he will stay in Kyiv for “as long as it takes to win this war” during his latest nightly briefing to the Ukrainian people, which was filmed at his office for the first time since the invasion began. Zelensky is due to address the UK parliament by videolink at 17.00 London time today.

• Energy giant Shell has said that it will stop buying Russian oil, gas and petrol products, in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The company’s CEO Ben van Beurden also apologised for purchasing a cargo of Russian crude at a discounted price last week, for which Shell was criticised.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

People like us

Over the past week I’ve had lots of conversations around the idea of what makes the war in Ukraine different; why the intense media focus compared to other wars? Why the mass demonstrations of support in cities such as London (pictured)? Why the willingness of eastern European nations to take in refugees when they resisted those from Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen? Is it because, as the implicit criticism goes, we in the West view Ukrainians as “people like us” and somehow more worthy of support?

I find these conversations depressing. It’s as if the one time we get it right and offer massive support to a nation under duress, we’re asked to justify the many other crises that we’ve wrongly ignored. While the impulse to combat discrimination and inequity is laudable, it’s hard to ignore human nature; the desire to go the extra mile for a neighbour, as, for example, Poland is doing, is quite understandable. And then there’s the obvious: Ukraine is being invaded entirely without justification by a powerful foreign foe. Such an unprovoked assault threatens the global order; it should matter to all of us and be resisted with the fullest force available.

But there’s another more personal reason that I resist this narrative. Before visiting Ukraine last month for Monocle, I confess that I knew little about the country. Despite its desire for EU membership, the annexation of Crimea and the memory of its 2014 revolution, Ukraine still seemed distant and foreign. It felt, to be embarrassingly frank, more a part of Russia. After spending two weeks in Kyiv and speaking to people there, I quickly realised just how wrong I was.

Perhaps the lesson is that we all need to visit more far-flung places in order to identify with people in other countries. I’ve come not only to see Ukrainians as a peaceful and generous people but also as more “like me” – and I can’t help but feel a more personal connection to their future as a result. Surely there’s nothing wrong with that.

Image: Stenbocki maja/Flickr

Diplomacy / Finland & Estonia

Present danger

When Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin and her Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas (pictured, on right, with Marin) met in Tallinn yesterday, deterring another Russian incursion topped their agenda, as the horrors in Ukraine continue to stoke fears across the region. Indeed, Baltic nations have long warned about the dangers posed by Putin and many blame western Europeans for not taking this seriously. “Russia has been an existential threat for our region for about a thousand years,” Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former president of Estonia, tells Monocle 24. “Even before Putin’s ascent, there has been a major divide between this ‘kumbaya’ approach of western Europe and the warnings of eastern Europe.” While Estonia joined Nato in 2004, Finland had stayed neutral since the cold war. But the differences are narrowing: both countries have offered military support to Ukraine. “There’s an immense outpouring of support and solidarity for Ukraine across the region from virtually all countries that have suffered under this kind of rule,” Ilves says.

Hear more from Estonia’s former president on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Design / Russia

Unfinished architecture

The bombing of civic and public buildings by Russian forces in Ukraine is intended not only to wreak havoc but to break the will of the Ukranian people. Now, architects around the world are retaliating by targeting Russian buildings – in a symbolic manner at least. Many firms including Zaha Hadid Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, OMA, Bjarke Ingels Group and MVRDV have cancelled projects and refused commissions for future work in Russia.

The move, which many of the firms say has been received with understanding from clients, will result in buildings sitting half-finished across the country, including Herzog & de Meuron’s renovation of the enormous Badaevskiy Brewery site (pictured) in Moscow. Aside from leaving Russia short of works by leading designers, the architects will be hoping that the Russian people see, in the uncompleted buildings, proof that much of the world has unfinished business to conduct with the nation’s leaders.

Image: Getty Images

Automotive / Japan

Team players

With Ukraine driving fuel prices sky-high and climate change gathering pace, gas-guzzling cars have never seemed less appealing. Now two Japanese giants from different industries – Honda and Sony – have announced that they are joining forces to develop their own electric vehicles. The union of a car-maker and an electronics company makes perfect sense: Honda will make the vehicles while Sony will deal with the increasingly complicated electronics, including the entertainment system. Sony had been looking for a partner since it showed its concept vehicle, Vision-S, in 2020. The new venture, which will have its own name and branding, aims to release its first car in 2025. At the launch press conference Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe and Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida (pictured, on left, with Mibe) said that this would be an open partnership, allowing for input from other companies too. Each will be hoping that the alchemy between the two produces something ground-breaking.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Ukraine

Don’t-hit list

Alongside the obvious care for the lives lost in Ukraine, Unesco says that it is “gravely concerned” about the country’s cultural heritage and is organising emergency meetings with museum directors to safeguard collections. Historic monuments will also be marked with the emblem of the 1945 Hague Convention, a signal for the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict. Here are three sites in urgent need of protection:

Derzhprom is one the first concrete Soviet skyscrapers and on Unesco’s world heritage list since 2017. A Russian missile recently hit a government building on the other side of the square where it is based, damaging an opera house and concert hall.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral (pictured) in Kyiv, built in the 11th century, was the first Ukrainian site to be added to Unesco’s world heritage list and is home to a series of rare mosaics and frescoes. Experts have warned that it warrants special protection given its proximity to buildings that Russia has targeted in the past.

Lviv’s Historic City Ensemble of baroque buildings and medieval landmarks first entered Unesco’s World Heritage list in 1998. The western city has become a waypoint for Ukrainians fleeing from eastern regions; so far it’s been relatively spared but residents worry that the worst is yet to come.

M24 / Meet the Writers

Okechukwu Nzelu

Okechukwu Nzelu’s debut novel, ‘The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney’, won the Betty Trask award, as well as a host of other accolades. His second book, ‘Here Again Now’, is a compelling novel about lovers, fathers and sons, intimacy and generational trauma that asks how you can move forward when the past keeps pulling you back. Georgina Godwin meets the author in our studio in London.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.


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