Thursday. 10/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking News / Ukraine

Latest headlines

• Talks between Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have failed to make progress towards a ceasefire. Kuleba and Lavrov arrived in southern Turkey today for negotiations on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum in Antalya, the highest-level talks since the invasion. The two have agreed to continue the dialogue.

• Kamala Harris has arrived in Warsaw for meetings with Polish president Andrzej Duda today, where the issue of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine is top of the agenda. Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday slammed the two Nato allies for playing “ping pong” in the middle of a war and urged Washington and Warsaw to “send us planes”.

• Three people, including a child, were killed and 17 injured in a Russian strike on a children’s hospital and maternity ward in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Zelensky called the attack a “war crime” and announced the launch of a website to keep track of Russian atrocities in the conflict.

• Uniqlo has become the latest major fashion brand to announce temporary closures of its operations in Russia. It’s a major change of heart: founder Tadashi Yanai said earlier this week that clothing is a “necessity of life” and that Russians have “the same right to live as we do”.

• Lada factories in Russia have reportedly had to halt production of the iconic Soviet-era car as international sanctions interrupt supply chains. Lada’s parent company is owned by France’s Renault, which is one of many international car manufacturers that have suspended Russian operations.

• Ukrainian refugees will be able to apply for UK visas online rather than in application centres, simplifying a process widely criticised as too slow. The British government has resisted pressure to drop all visa requirements for the more than 2 million people who have fled the conflict. Just 957 UK visas have been issued so far.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Staying power

Emmanuel Macron hits the campaign trail this week seeking a second term in the Élysée Palace – and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may well boost his chances. Criticisms of Macron’s failed diplomatic overtures before the advance have faded. Now many of his rivals’ links to Russia are under the spotlight instead.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen supported Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and her party once received €11m in loans from Russian banks. French media have also reported that her team recently pulled a campaign leaflet featuring a photograph of her meeting Vladimir Putin. Other candidates, including Le Pen’s extreme-right rival Éric Zemmour and hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have also been accused of being soft on Russia.

Before the invasion, most pundits were predicting that Macron would face a second-round run-off with Le Pen, as he did in the 2017 presidential election. The president is currently polling at about 30 per cent, with Le Pen at 17 per cent and Zemmour, Mélenchon and conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse tied at about 12 per cent.

With just over a month until the first round, however, Macron can’t afford to overlook the home front. Despite Le Pen and Zemmour’s anti-immigration bluster, polls show that the main issue for voters is the rising cost of living. Macron made headlines this week with a promise to abolish the €138-a-year television licence fee, delighting those on lower incomes but upsetting others who cherish public broadcasting. Socialist candidate and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said that it would “kill” the independence of public media. Macron is trying to dispel perceptions that he is the “president of the rich” but undermining what many consider an institution of French life may cost him as many votes as it earns him.

Keep up with The Monocle Minute and tune in to Monocle 24 for regular weekly updates ahead of the French presidential elections on 10 April.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Belarus

Special relationship

When Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago, one surprising detail was that Russian forces had crossed the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, which is just 100km north of Kyiv. Ukrainian officials have suggested that Belarus could now be preparing to send its own troops across the same frontier. The relationship between Minsk and Moscow, which survived the fall of the Soviet Union, has never been particularly straightforward but these two pariah states have become almost indistinguishable since Vladimir Putin sent forces to crush Belarusian political dissent against president Alexander Lukashenko (pictured, centre) in 2020. Still, “it’s not a love match”, says John Everard, who served as the UK’s ambassador in Minsk between 1993 and 1995, on Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “It’s an abusive relationship,” says Everard. “This is Russia taking full advantage of Belarusian weakness and forcing the government into positions that just three years ago would have been simply unthinkable.”

Image: Shutterstock

Music / Ukraine

Voice of reason

The Eurovision Song Contest is ostensibly apolitical but, like many other organisations, it has excluded Russia from participating in this year’s competition. Ukraine’s entry, meanwhile, is among the favourites. If it wins, it wouldn’t be the first time that Ukraine has triumphed following a Russian incursion: after the annexation of Crimea, singer Jamala (pictured) won the 2016 contest. The winning song, the powerful and haunting ballad “1944”, references the year that Crimean Tatars, including Jamala’s great-grandmother, were deported from their homeland.

Now Jamala herself has been forced to flee her country; she is in Istanbul, while her husband and band have stayed in Ukraine. “History is repeating itself,” Jamala tells Monocle. “When I wrote the song, it was all about the past; now it’s more realistic.” Jamala sang an emotional rendition of “1944” at the German national finals for Eurovision this week. “I will do anything in my power to spread the word about what’s happening in Ukraine,” she says. “Anything to help my country.”

Jamala speaks to Monocle 24’s Eurovision correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, on the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Italy

Owning up

From yachts to villas, Russian oligarchs have been stripped of many of their Mediterranean assets over the past few days as the EU and Western nations target their holdings. In Italy, authorities have seized Sardinian, Tuscan and other lakeside homes as well as vessels moored in Ligurian marinas (pictured), with an overall value of about €140m. Many wealthy Russians are now dashing out of the Neapolitan Riviera, trying to sell their homes and cancelling holidays and events in the region. Tens of thousands of Russian tourists normally visit the Amalfi coast during the tourist season but they will be absent this summer. Meanwhile, travel operators such as Sud Italia Hotels are suggesting that luxury resort islands including Ischia could host Ukrainian refugees instead.

Image: The Courtauld

Culture / UK

State of the art

At a time when ties with Russia are being severed, two cultural establishments in London are pressing ahead with efforts to foster understanding of a different superpower: China. The Asymmetry Art Foundation is a non-profit organisation that supports curators, writers and academics from Asia through residencies and PhD scholarships in European institutions. Its new collaboration with the Courtauld Institute (pictured), a college specialising in the history of art, could change the landscape of Chinese contemporary art study in the UK. The new programme comprises two fully funded two-year placements, a lecture series and an annual conference for students and the public. “We hope to integrate the knowledge of Chinese and Sinophone contemporary art more deeply into the art history canon,” Michèle Ruo Yi Landolt, deputy director of the Asymmetry Art Foundation, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s unique in that currently this is the only research programme dedicated to Chinese contemporary art offered at this academic level in the UK.”

Image: Barrett Doherty/The Cultural Landscape Foundation

M24 / Monocle On Design

The Oberlander prize

We meet Julie Bargmann, winner of the inaugural Oberlander prize for landscape architecture, and visit one of her projects in Philadelphia.

Monocle Films / Global

‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’

Following in the footsteps of our best-selling titles The Monocle Book of Italy and The Monocle Book of Japan, this is a thrilling exploration of Europe’s northernmost reaches. Order your copy from The Monocle Shop.

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