Thursday 24 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 24/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Stuart Franklin

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

High season

As apple blossoms burst, sap rises and picnic blankets fall in the park beside our London HQ, the attention of Monocle’s editors is never far from the TV screens at both ends of the newsroom. Here, in images familiar around the world, journalists, pundits and fevered tickers relay up-to-the-minute atrocities on the eastern fringes of Europe. War and the arrival of spring are all the more unsettling for their horrible incongruity.

Monocle’s April issue, which is out today, offers a wide-eyed look at some of the challenges that the world is facing – and some hope beyond the headlines. We dispatched our Russian-born correspondent Alexei Korolyov to Ukraine’s borders with Moldova and Romania (pictured) to talk to refugees, security chiefs and local leaders about how these states might cope if Ukraine plunges further into crisis, with the ever-looming presence of an angry Russian bear. At times it’s enough to make you lose hope. But don’t – there are also human stories of perseverance.

Beyond the theatre of war, we continue to reflect on the importance of striving, fixing and doing things better. We profile the streets (from Los Angeles to Bangkok and Copenhagen) that are reviving the art of the sell in our annual retail survey and offer fresh looks and smart buys in our spring/summer style directory. There’s an interview with the Fiat CEO, a report on the Turkish furniture industry, Scandinavia’s spy drama and a report from the campaign trail in France.

A month after Russian tanks crushed the spring shoots of peace into the mud of war, we’re not much closer to understanding how this miserable conflict might end or when the suffering can cease. This said, for a few reasons to be circumspect, sanguine and appreciative of the changing of seasons, pick up a copy of our new issue today.

Image: Getty Images

Education / Afghanistan

Class dismissed

Yesterday, as girls in Afghanistan arrived for their first day of classes in almost seven months, the Taliban abruptly U-turned and announced that secondary schools, which start at the age of 11, would not allow in female students. The decision, ostensibly due to a conflict over proper uniforms, slashed the hopes of thousands of girls who have been barred from education throughout most of the country since the Taliban seized control in August. Videos quickly emerged of tearful girls in Taliban-approved uniforms and backpacks standing outside their schools but the question is what, if anything, the international community can do about it. Afghanistan already faces a widespread humanitarian disaster, exacerbated by the withdrawal of international financial support following US sanctions. Almost 23 million people are at risk of starvation. “We’ve seen a very vengeful Taliban take over,” says Lynne O’Donnell, the Associated Press’s former Kabul bureau chief. “Telling the international community that they would open schools to all was a very cynical way of trying to get the aid money flowing and the diplomatic recognition that they’re desperate for.”

Hear more from O’Donnell on the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Ukraine

Changing tracks

Ukraine’s national railway this week announced plans to nationalise all Russian rolling stock within the country’s borders, in an unprecedented move. It follows the introduction of a law signed by Volodymyr Zelensky that outlines the principles for Ukraine seizing Russian property following its invasion. Railway operator Ukrzaliznytsia is awaiting approval to commandeer 15,000 Russian rail vehicles, owned by 250 companies, that are operating on its main rail network. In comparison, less than 500 Ukrainian vehicles are believed to be stranded in Russia.

The chairman of Ukrzaliznytsia, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said that he hopes the seized vehicles will eventually “work for Ukraine’s economy”. With news also emerging this week of Belarusian activists sabotaging Russian trains carrying troops and supplies into the country, it seems that Ukraine and its allies are set on using the railways to their advantage as the conflict continues.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Taiwan

Up in arms

Taiwan’s defence ministry is considering the extension of compulsory military service beyond the current four months in a bid to prepare its civilian population for direct conflict with the Chinese mainland. The self-ruled island has been at pains to establish more of a professional than a volunteer force in recent years – but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a rethink. “The current crisis in Eastern Europe has unsettled the Taiwanese government,” Rana Mitter, director of Oxford University’s China Centre, tells The Monocle Minute. “The Chinese Communist Party is preparing for its 20th Party Congress so it is unlikely that an attack on Taiwan is imminent. But the prospect of a land invasion similar to Russia’s assault on Ukraine has prompted leaders in Taiwan to prepare for all eventualities.” Such preparations have popular support: a recent poll found that 70 per cent of Taiwanese people would take up arms to defend the island – up from 40 per cent at the end of last year.

Image: Avalon

Aviation / Greenland

Vertical challenge

Air Greenland has announced that it will acquire a fleet of electric vertical takeoff and landing (Evtol) aircraft. The zero-emissions Vertical Aerospace VX4 is a high-performance electric plane, capable of carrying five people more than 100 nautical miles. Air Greenland will become the first European airline to partner with Avolon, an Irish aircraft-leasing company that ordered 500 Evtol models last year and reports that 90 per cent of them are now in use across the world. In Greenland, which is increasingly threatened by the effects of rising temperatures, the VX4 will significantly improve the sustainability of transport and ease passage to many places, such as remote retreat Ilimanaq Lodge, that are currently only accessible by boat. “We see the effects of climate change every day,” says Jacob Nitter Sørensen, Air Greenland’s chief executive. “We want to be at the forefront of the climate revolution.” Efficient, long-range transport that doesn’t cost the Earth? Sign us up.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Marc Newson and Båge & Söner

We talk to Marc Newson about everyday objects and his collaboration with Drummonds. Plus: the story behind Båge & Söner clocks and a reflection on craft with The Invisible Collection.

Monocle Films / Global

Tailoring’s youthful refit

They might not fit the archetype of the high-end tailor but a new generation of smart young outfitters are now at the cutting edge of bespoke menswear. We get the measure of four such craftsmen in London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Perugia.


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