Friday 18 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 18/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nikita Grigorov

Going the distance

This week saw the prime ministers of three European countries – Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic – arrive by train to Kyiv, a city shelled by Russian artillery and terrorised by Russian saboteurs. What was the meaning of this gesture in an era when almost any kind of communication can be done online?

For us in Kyiv, one purpose was to show that rumours about our complete encirclement are greatly exaggerated. You can still come to the capital and feel relatively safe, just as you can arrange a big international meeting and conclude agreements with Volodymyr Zelensky. Despite the shelling, we in Kyiv continue defiantly to live, love, feel free, smile, walk the streets and savour a morning cup of coffee. Ukraine’s Armed Forces have managed to guarantee these simple but important things.

We also saw this visit as a mark of European solidarity, a return of central European politicians taking the lead and making historically significant gestures. It also served as a challenge to Russia’s understanding of history. For eight years, Russian propagandists have shouted at the top of their voices about the end of European history; fundamentally, they don’t want to see and understand their neighbours or the Ukrainian people. The solidarity, personal courage and symbolism of the central European leaders contrasted with the barbarism, ruthlessness and heavy-handedness of the Russian state.

Practically, the visit was also emblematic of new security alliances forming on the eastern borders of Europe: there’s the UK, Ukraine and Poland; there’s the Visegrád Four and Ukraine; there’s Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine; and now there’s Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine. Which of these configurations will be successful? We cannot know the exact answer. But, while thinking, reflecting and trying out different formats, we can’t forget about the most important goal: that of a free Europe.

Nikita Grigorov is a journalist currently based in Kyiv and originally from Donetsk.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Georgia

On side

Having been invaded by Russia less than 15 years ago, Georgia can relate all too well to the plight of Ukraine. But how should it react? Georgia has been criticised for a lacklustre response to the invasion, most notably by Volodymyr Zelensky, who withdrew Ukraine’s ambassador and described Georgia’s unwillingness to join sanctions as “immoral”. This week, Georgia’s president, Salome Zourabichvil, sought to justify her actions, arguing that without Nato membership and with Russian troops occupying part of her country, it can’t risk behaving as aggressively as other European nations. Still, it has been a polarising move domestically. Giorgi Tabagari, director of Tbilisi Pride and a civic activist, says that a majority of Georgians are in favour of tougher action against Russia. “Over 80 per cent of Georgians feel that the war in Ukraine right now is also Georgia’s war,” he told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “We very much feel that we are in the same boat.”

Image: Getty Images

Energy / Saudi Arabia & UK

Into the fire

Boris Johnson called Saudi Arabia and the UAE “key international partners” on a visit to the region this week, aiming to convince the oil-rich nations to increase their output as Western nations seek to wean themselves off Russian energy. The balance is a delicate one and the UK’s opposition parties have been quick to criticise Johnson for divesting from the oil of one autocratic state only to turn to another. This week alone, 84 Saudi prisoners were executed and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured, with Johnson) remains linked to both the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Johnson had promised to address human rights during his visit but it’s doubtful that they were given much focus. “There may be mutterings at a lower level but it’s very unlikely that Johnson will have been raising those kinds of issues directly,” journalist and Yemen expert Iona Craig told The Briefing on Monocle 24. “Particularly at this moment, when Mohammed bin Salman has the upper hand.”

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / Philippines

Absent minded

The Philippines’ first televised presidential debate this weekend might take place without its biggest potential ratings draw. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr (pictured), the clear frontrunner for May’s election, is expected to skip tomorrow’s hustings. He will choose instead to spend time with supporters and avoid clashing with a crowded field of candidates that includes Leni Robredo, who has emerged as the opposition leader. Organisers are leaving the door open for a surprise appearance by Marcos but a no-show would fit his strategy so far. The son of the country’s former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Bongbong has built up a commanding lead in the polls by ducking tough media interviews and avoiding awkward questions, from his father’s record in office to his own questionable CV, which includes a conviction for tax evasion. With less than two months to go until election day, Robredo has an opportunity tomorrow to close the gap in the polls – and force Bongbong to appear at the two remaining debates.

Image: Victoria and Albert Museum

Fashion / UK

Leading men

Fashioning Masculinities, which opens this weekend at London’s Victoria & Albert museum, is a new exhibition tracing the evolution of menswear from the 15th century to the present day with more than 100 looks and 100 artworks across three thematic galleries. Historical items of clothing are displayed alongside sculptures, Renaissance art and contemporary designs by new and established names, from Gucci (pictured) and Louis Vuitton to Harris Reed, Priya Ahluwalia and Edward Crutchley. The aim is to showcase the origins of some of the most enduring trends in masculine dressing, as well as the breakdown of traditional rules and current spirit of experimentation in menswear. Recognisable looks, such as a Burberry suit worn by footballer Marcus Rashford and designer Hedi Slimane’s teddy boy-inspired leather jackets, are also part of the show. “Masculine fashion is enjoying a period of unprecedented creativity,” says curator Claire Wilcox. “This is a journey across time to reveal how masculinity has been performed.”

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Unspun and The Restory

The modern, linear manufacturing that is typical of much fashion and textile production can be hugely wasteful and damaging to the environment. We meet two entrepreneurs who explain how innovations in technology and a revolution in aftercare can ensure that fashion and textile production needn’t cost the earth.

Monocle Films / Global

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